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Vikings' defense shows it should be considered among NFL's best

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Vikings back to playing like themselves (1:23)

Minnesota is the first team to beat the Panthers in Carolina since November 2014 in large part of their second-half offensive play according to ESPN's Ben Goessling. (1:23)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Minnesota Vikings will be without Adrian Peterson until at least mid-November (and possibly longer). They won't have Teddy Bridgewater until next summer (and possibly longer). They sent Matt Kalil to team doctor Chris Larson for hip surgery this week, and they'll be without defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd for several weeks after his second knee surgery in less than a year.

It all made Sunday afternoon more difficult against the defending NFC champions, but it did not prevent the Vikings from coming home as the first road team to win at Bank of America Stadium since Nov. 16, 2014. The way their defense is playing right now, it's going to take a lot more than that to knock them off course.

The Vikings cannot be counted out of any game these days, even if their opponent is as formidable as the one they faced Sunday. They haven't given up more than 16 points in seven straight games, dating back to last December, and a team that didn't excel at creating turnovers last season has fashioned a plus-8 margin already this year. As the Vikings left Charlotte with a 22-10 win on Sunday, overcoming a 10-0 deficit and battering Cam Newton for eight sacks, their defense made a case it should be on a very short list of the league's best.

"We're not going to back down from anybody," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We know how good these teams are. I mean, this is a great football team here in Carolina. You will not hear the last of them (on Sunday), obviously. They're great. But we're not going to come in and be a lollipop for anybody. We want to play as hard as we can. We want to make it four quarters. We've got to continue to get better in certain areas, but it's going to be a (battle). That's what we want."

Minnesota allowed just 23 net yards in the first 25 minutes of the second half. Even in the first half, when the Panthers gained 205 yards and held the ball for more than 21 minutes, the Vikings went to the locker room down just two points, thanks to a Danielle Hunter safety and a Marcus Sherels punt return touchdown. Newton was largely confined to the pocket, as the Vikings collapsed his running lanes with defensive linemen bearing down on his rickety protection unit, and the league's top-ranked offense was muzzled until a late rally.

The New York Giants will present their own challenges next Monday night, with Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard providing a deep group of weapons for Eli Manning. And it's not a sustainable formula to rely on defensive and special-teams scores each week. The Vikings can go into just about every game, though, knowing their defense will keep them close. On Sunday, when the group manhandled Newton and flexed its muscles against a championship-level opponent, it showed it's capable of taking over a game.