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Bengals stomp the Vikings 42-14, earn playoff berth
By Mike Berk
Follow on Twitter @mike_berk
The block Bengals Punter Kevin Huber absorbed last Sunday night in Pittsburgh was a metaphor for the actual game itself. The Steelers out-muscled and flat-out bullied the Bengals while taking a 30-20 win in a game which meant a whole lot more to Cincinnati than to their pals in the Steel City. Still, the Bengals returned home for the first of two games at Paul Brown Stadium to close out the regular season, with the first coming against a Vikings team also playing out the string. The Bengals came in unbeaten and home and the Vikings were winless on the road.
The Vikings have a good return game and it reared itself in an ugly way for the Bengals as they took the opening kick across midfield. But a fumble recovery on Minnesotas opening possession by Carlos Dunlap, got the Bengals inside the Vikings 5 yard line, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis made it count with a touchdown run to give Cincinnati the early 7-0 lead.
But that cushion was short-lived as Dre Kirkpatrick got abused on a double move by Jarius Wright and Matt Cassel hit him along the right sideline to complete a 36-yard touchdown play, which knotted the game at seven.
Towards the end of the 1st quarter the Bengals got arguably the best pass Andy Dalton has thrown all season when he dropped a dime into A.J. Greens hands in the front corner of the end zone. The 29-yarder was Daltons career-high 28th touchdown pass of the season and it gave the Bengals a 14-7 lead.
Early in the 2nd quarter the Bengals held a 2 to 1 advantage in total yards (159-80), and when Matt Cassel tried to squeeze a 3rd down pass into tight coverage, the Bengals would hold a two score lead. Vinny Rey made Cassel pay by picking off his pass and returning it 25-yards for a touchdown. The Bengals were more than halfway to another 40 point home outburst.
And theyd get even closer to that mark just before the half as Dalton hit Jermaine Gresham in the middle of the end zone to make it 28-7. Win #10 of the season was all but wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree before the intermission.
The second half opened just as well as the first half ended. Giovani Bernard made an electrifying 41-yard catch-n-run on a screen pass, which got the Bengals inside the Minnesota 10-yard-line. Then Andy Dalton capped it off with a 7-yard back shoulder fade touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu to make it a 35-7 spread. The touchdown pass was Daltons 30th of the season, leaving him two shy of trying Carson Palmer for the single season franchise record.
When Dalton got within one of Palmers record by throwing his 4th touchdown pass of the day (and second to A.J. Green), the Bengals went over the 40-point plateau for the 4th consecutive home game. If this team can somehow sneak back into the #2 seed for the playoffs, you might be able to make your AFC Championship game plans.
Bengals polished off the Vikings 42-14 and barely broke a sweat in the process, reaching the playoffs for a 3rd straight season is now likely, with Miami losing to Buffalo. Cincinnati can clinch the division with a Baltimore Ravens loss to the New England Patriots.