The Minnesota Vikings' Emphatic Response Against the Bengals
They responded to what was really their first bit of adversity all season: a 13-point loss, combined with a season-ending injury to arguably their most influential leader on defense, E.J. Henderson, by blowing out a good Bengals team.
Cincinnati was 9-3 coming into the Metrodome on Sunday, but would leave Minneapolis with some of the same questions the Vikings left Arizona with in the previous week. Do they have enough talent and desire to contend for an AFC Championship and possible Super Bowl bid?
Their performances in their final three games will tell all. A 12-4 season in Cincinnati would merit its own ticker tape parade. However, trips to San Diego and to New York to face the Jets sandwich a home date with Kansas City in their final three games, 12 wins may be hard to come by.
Minnesota had to answer some of those questions in week 14 and most of those questions were thoroughly answered.
Could the defense perform against certainly formidable offensive opposition without EJ Henderson in the lineup? The Bengals were held to 210 yards of total offense and just 93 passing yards from Carson Palmer.
Would the offense do the necessary thing and take some of the burden off of Brett Favre by committing to the running game? Peterson carried the ball 26 times and had two scores, while the team had 37 carries for 142 yards.
Would Brett Favre continue to perform poorly in December? He was 17/30 for less than 200 yards passing and threw one TD and an interception; not exactly stellar numbers, but it didn't hurt the team like it did in Arizona the previous week.
Antoine Winfield's return cannot go unmentioned as he played a huge role in shutting down the Bengals offense; nine solo tackles, some of the NFL films highlight variety.
His presence had been sorely missed, as the Vikings coming into the game with Cincinnati with the leagues second worst yards per rushing attempt outside of the tackle box. (The Vikings gave up just 27 of those yards total during the game against Cincinnati)/
As much fun as it is to see the 40 year-old gunslinger chucking the ball around 45 times with the accuracy, Vikings fans have grown accustomed to this season. I loved how much the game against Cincinnati echoed his performance against Cleveland in week one.
Sure, Favre only threw the ball 20 times in week one, but he was letting his running game do the grunt of the work. Against the Bengals, Favre threw when he needed to and never really forced the issue. The running game and the defense took the game over and it seems that might be a winning strategy going forward.
You can't look at the game against Cincinnati without emphasizing the defensive performance. It might have been the biggest factor in the Vikings win.
The defense was involved in what for me, was the key play of the game. That was Antoine Winfield's forced fumble just before halftime.
The fumble led to a quick, half-ending field goal from Ryan Longwell, that gave the Vikings a two score advantage at 16-7. It was also crucial as the Vikings started the second half with the football and managed to drive the ball the length of the field for a touchdown making the score, 23-7.
With the score 23-7 and with the defense making the kind of plays it was making, the Bengals had no chance at a comeback.
With arguably their toughest late-season test behind them, the Vikings face just one more team with a winning record this season.
Against the Bengals, the Vikings were able to beat down the sudden adversity they were facing after the loss to Arizona. If they continue to get steady production from their running game, effectively lightening the load for Favre, and the defense performs as well as they showed they can against Cincinnati, post season success looks like a sure thing.
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