Dalton, Bengals maul Minnesota
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals were in the postseason the last two seasons. They want more than just a playoff appearance this time around.
The Bengals topped the 40-point mark for the fourth consecutive home game and earned their third consecutive postseason berth with a 42-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati (10-5) clinched at least a wild-card berth when Buffalo defeated Miami 19-0 a few minutes after the final gun sounded in Cincinnati. The Bengals can win the AFC North with a Baltimore loss to New England on Sunday or by beating the Ravens next Sunday in the regular-season finale. They are still battling New England for the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“Making it to the playoffs is a blessing,” said Bengals safety Reggie Nelson. “We’ve made it the last two years and it’s not too often that you make it to the playoffs. You can’t take it for granted.”
Minnesota (4-10-1) was held to 209 yards of total offense one week after putting up 455 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the second-lowest total of the season for the Vikings.
Minnesota was 0 for 9 on third down and failed to convert either of its two fourth-down attempts while managing just 10 first downs. All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson started the game despite being limited in practice this week with a bad foot but was held to 45 yards on 11 carries.
Peterson was pulled in the second half when the score got out of hand.
“I didn’t think it was wise to keep playing him,” said Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier. “We’ll see how he is this week, but it just wasn’t the right thing to do to keep him in there today.”
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton finished 27 of 38 for 366 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 136.5, while wide receiver A.J. Green caught seven passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns to give him 10 touchdowns for the season. The Bengals had 429 total yards of offense. It was the seventh time this season the Bengals topped 400 yards in a game.
Cincinnati is now 7-0 at home this season and has won by an average score of 43.5-17.8 in its last four home games.
“It’s tough to play on the road, so when you’re home you’re familiar with everything,” said Dalton. “We’re here every day and the fans are getting into it. It’s great to not have to worry about crowd noise and have the fans on your side during the game. We come out and play well. One of our goals coming into this season was to be undefeated at home and we’ve got one more to accomplish that.”
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 48 yards to the Cincinnati 49 for the Vikings but it was the Bengals who scored first. Cincinnati linebacker Vinny Rey sacked quarterback Matt Cassel and forced a fumble that defensive end Carlos Dunlap picked up and returned 42 yards to the Minnesota 4. BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored his seventh rushing touchdown of the season two plays later to give Cincinnati a 7-0 lead.
Minnesota capitalized on a fumble by Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham to tie the score. The Vikings needed just four plays to go 54 yards, the final 36 yards coming on a touchdown pass from Cassel to Jarius Wright on an out-and-up double move that burned cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and safety George Iloka with 10:02 left in the first quarter.
Cincinnati scored the next 35 points. Dalton threw touchdown passes of 29 and 2 yards to Green and scores of 16 yards Gresham and 7 yards to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, while Rey turned his second interception of the season into a 25-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Bengals a 21-7 lead.
Cassel threw for 385 yards last week against Philadelphia in Minnesota’s 48-30 win. He was just 13 of 26 for 114 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions against Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals came into the game ranked seventh in the NFL in pass defense.
“Obviously today was a bad day at the office,” said Cassel. “That’s playoff-caliber team. It’s a tough team to play at home with the mistakes that I made and the inconsistencies throughout the day - that makes it a lot tougher.”
Notes: Andy Dalton became just the second Bengals quarterback to surpass 30 touchdown passes in a season. He has 31 touchdowns, one behind Carson Palmer’s franchise record of 32 touchdown passes in 2005. ... LB James Harrison (concussion) and CB Terence Newman (knee) were inactive for the Bengals. ... Bengals RT Andre Smith left the game in the third quarter with a sprained ankle. ... Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis lost a challenge for the first time this season when officials upheld their initial ruling of a runner down by contact before a fumble. Lewis had won his first six challenges. ... Minnesota WR Greg Jennings made his 100th career start. ... WR Cordarrelle Patterson had 143 yards on four kickoff returns for Minnesota, leaving him four yards shy of Buster Rhymes’ franchise record of 1,345 yards set in 1985. ... CB Shaun Prater, a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012, started his second consecutive game for Minnesota in place of Xavier Rhodes.