After deferring to the second half following the coin toss, the Cincinnati Bengals got the ball first to start the third quarter, trailing the Minnesota Vikings by a count of 24-0. The kickoff from Kai Forbath went for a touchback, giving Andy Dalton and company a start at their own 25-yard line. The Bengals did something they only did once in the first half. . .picked up a first down, as Dalton found A.J. Green for a 16-yard completion to move the chains. But after a bad drop by Tyler Kroft that would have given them another, the Bengals were faced with 3rd-and-15, and a short flip from Dalton to Giovani Bernard came up short of the marker. Kevin Huber came in to punt it away, and the fair catch was called for by Marcus Sherels at the Minnesota 12-yard line.
Latavius Murray lost a yard on first down, but then blasted through for a 12-yard run to give the Vikings a first down. Murray then ripped off a 14-yarder to move the sticks once again for the Vikings. After a run for no gain, Case Keenum found Adam Thielen for a 10-yard gain and another first down near midfield. Keenum then found Jerick McKinnon for another big gainer, as he scampered down the left sideline for 29 yards into Cincinnati territory at the 24. Another short pass to McKinnon on third down was short of a first, and the Vikings called on Kai Forbath for another field goal attempt. This one was from 35 yards out, and Forbath was true on the kick to make it 27-0 with about six and a half minutes remaining in the quarter.
Forbath’s kickoff was fielded in the end zone for a touchback, and on the Bengals’ first offensive play, Dalton was picked off by Terence Newman on a great, juggling snag! That gave the Vikings incredible field position at the Cincinnati 25-yard line, but the Vikings managed to shoot themselves in the foot with a holding penalty on Rashod Hill on second down to make it 2nd-and-20. The Vikings couldn’t advance any further, and called on Ryan Quigley for another punt. Alex Erickson fielded the punt at the 8-yard line for the Bengals.
The Bengals finally got a big offensive play on a 3rd-and-9 deep in their own territory, as Dalton heaved up a pass in the direction of Brandon Lafell for a 45-yard gain, giving them their first trip into Minnesota territory. However, things went back to normal as the Bengals found themselves facing 4th-and-8 from the Minnesota 45, and chose to punt the football away. Marcus Sherels called for the fair catch at the 17-yard line.
The Vikings got another big catch from McKinnon, as he gained 31 yards on a reception from Keenum, and a face mask penalty on Shaun Williams added 15 more yards, taking the ball all the way down to the Cincinnati 29-yard line. That’s where we are as we move on to the fourth quarter of play.
The Minnesota Vikings are one quarter away from wrapping up the NFC North for the second time in three seasons. They lead the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 27-0, and they’re now looking for the first shutout for a Vikings’ team since they shut out the Detroit Lions 13-0 on 5 December 1993 at the Pontiac Silverdome. Yeah, it’s been a while. . .can they pull it off?