MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A revitalized Rodney Peete is the next veteran quarterback to test Minnesota's porous pass defense.
The Carolina Panthers should find the Vikings a tougher foe than their first two, but they have to like their chances throwing the ball against them on Sunday.
Turnovers have cost Minnesota, too, but late-game breakdowns in the secondary were just as responsible for defeats to Jim Miller and Chicago and Drew Bledsoe and Buffalo. The Vikings are last in the league in passing defense at 362.5 yards per game.
Still, they're willing to pin that on youth -- six of Minnesota's eight defensive backs have played three years or less -- instead of ineptitude.
"I am pleased, believe it or not, with the improvement of our defensive unit in total," said coach Mike Tice, emphasizing the Vikings' success stopping the run. They've given up 111 yards rushing in two games, third in the NFL.
"Look, we will not play Drew Bledsoe every week," Tice said. "We are going to continue to emphasize stopping the run and making teams one-dimensional. Unfortunately for us, Drew Bledsoe was better than our secondary at the tail end of the game."
Bledsoe, setting career and franchise highs with 463 yards passing, led the Bills to a 45-39 overtime win last week.
The Panthers, with Peete completing 64.7 percent of his passes and no interceptions, have doubled their 2001 victory total and are 2-0 for the first time since 1996 -- the year they made it to the NFC championship game.
Speaking of NFC championship games, Panthers coach John Fox was New York's defensive coordinator in 2001 when the Giants bludgeoned the Vikings 41-0.
Seems some things never change, including shaky play by the Vikings' secondary.
"I can't be critical of their approach at all," said Fox, in his first year as Carolina's coach. "I do know we have to be ready for a big test offensively. They're playing very well against the run."
The key for the Panthers, playing their first road game in a sure-to-be noisy Metrodome, will be starting strong.
That's what they did last year in Week 1 when Steve Smith ran back the opening kickoff in a 24-13 Carolina victory.
"Obviously how you start is very critical," said Fox, pointing to the two-touchdown lead the Giants built early in that NFC title game against the Vikings.
"Every once in a while, those kind of days happen," Fox said. "Everything we did went right, everything they did went wrong."
Because of what Doug Brien did wrong -- missing two extra points last week -- the Vikings have a new kicker, the NFL's all-time leading scorer Gary Anderson.
"Hopefully I'll give everybody some confidence and take care of my job and help the Vikings win some football games," said Anderson, who was later asked how hard Tice had to sell him on returning.
"I don't think it was much of a sales pitch at that point," Anderson said, laughing. "It was more, 'I am on my knees. I need you back."'
Led by coordinator Jack Del Rio, a former Vikings linebacker, the Panthers' defense faces its biggest challenge yet against Minnesota's offense.
Left tackle Lewis Kelly is back, making his first NFL start after he took three weeks off following the death of his wife and unborn child. That can only help an offensive line that's been run-blocking extremely well -- the Vikings have rushed for an NFC-high 353 yards.
But hanging onto the ball is just as big. Daunte Culpepper didn't do that last week, as three of his fumbles led to 13 Bills points.
"That shouldn't happen," Culpepper said.
People have questioned the legitimacy of Carolina's record, given wins over winless Baltimore and Detroit.
"I don't get into all that," said linebacker Dan Morgan. "We know what kind of team we are. Obviously people aren't going to give us respect right away."
A win at Minnesota would help.
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