Last week, the Minnesota Vikings let an opportunity to wrap up the NFC North slip away with a hard-fought loss to the Carolina Panthers. On their second opportunity to punch their postseason ticket, they left no doubt.
The Vikings were utterly dominant on defense on the afternoon, not allowing any points until late in the contest, and Case Keenum once again put up impressive numbers to give the Vikings a 34-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 action.
Minnesota got things going early, marching down the field on their opening drive after Case Keenum was sacked on the game’s first play. Latavius Murray keyed the drive with a big 28-yard catch and run on a screen pass, and he finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge, with Kai Forbath’s extra point making it 7-0 early in the first quarter.
On the Bengals’ next possession, the Minnesota defense decided to get themselves into the scoring column. Andy Dalton dropped back to pass and was looking for Alex Erickson, but he was intercepted by Eric Kendricks. Kendricks headed for the right sideline and dove for the pylon, scoring his second career touchdown on a 31-yard return. Forbath’s extra point made it 14-0 in favor of the home team. That interception return was, shockingly, the Vikings’ first defensive touchdown of the season.
The Vikings added still more first quarter points, as Kai Forbath banked a 53-yard field goal attempt off of the left upright to extend the lead to 17-0. Minnesota continued to pour it on in the second quarter, as Keenum found Stefon Diggs for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 24-0. That’s how they went into the locker room at halftime.
Forbath added a 35-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to extend the lead to 27-0. After they went to the fourth quarter, Minnesota found the end zone again, this time on a 1-yard pass from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph to make the score 34-0.
Midway through the fourth quarter, and with the game well in hand, the Vikings gave Teddy Bridgewater the opportunity to get into a game for the first time since January of 2016. After a couple of runs by Jerick McKinnon, Bridgewater’s first pass. . .went off of McKinnon’s hands and was intercepted by Bengals’ safety Shaun Williams. That set up the Bengals’ lone touchdown, as Giovani Bernard took a handoff from A.J. McCarron (who replaced Dalton at that point), and went in from two yards out. Randy Bullock connected on the extra point to make it 34-7 in favor of the Vikings with about six minutes left. That was how it ended, as the Vikings went on to a huge victory to lock up the NFC North for the second time in three seasons.
Keenum fell just short of Brett Favre’s record for the highest single-game completion percentage, as he completed 20-of-23 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. His 87% completion rate was just short of the 88% that Favre had in a 2009 contest against the Seattle Seahawks. Bridgewater was 0-for-2 with an interception in relief, but you could argue that both of his pass attempts should have been caught.
Jerick McKinnon was the big receiving weapon on the day, as he became the first Vikings’ running back since Onterrio Smith in 2004 to have over 100 receiving yards in a game. He had seven catches for 114 yards on the afternoon. No other Vikings’ receiver had more than 30 yards receiving. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen each had 30 receiving yards, with Diggs getting his on five catches and Thielen getting his on three grabs. Kyle Rudolph had two catches for 17 yards and a touchdown. Latavius Murray (28 yards), Jarius Wright (11 yards), and C.J. Ham (6 yards) each had one reception on the afternoon.
On the ground, Murray led the way for the Vikings in this one, as he carried the ball 20 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. McKinnon had 24 yards on nine carries, and Keenum chipped in with a 20-yard scramble. Stefon Diggs had seven yards on an end-around as well.
The Vikings move their record to 11-3 and are officially the 2017 NFC North Champions, and should be able to wrap up a first-round bye with one win in their final two games. The Vikings will play on Saturday night at Lambeau Field against Green Bay. Cincinnati sees their record drop to 5-9, and will host the Detroit Lions next Sunday.
Once again, your Minnesota Vikings have wrapped up the NFC North and will be going back to the postseason for the first time since 2015, courtesy of a 34-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Thank you to everyone that got their coverage of today’s game right here at The Daily Norseman!