The Minnesota Vikings are heading back to the playoffs. They completed the first two steps towards hosting Super Bowl XLII with a 34-7 thumping of the Bengals. The win clinched the Vikings’ their second NFC North championship in three years (step one) and locked in a return trip to the playoffs (step two).

Recap

Quarterback Case Keenum played almost flawlessly through three quarters as he went 20 of 23 for 236 yards and two touchdowns with the only flaws being two sacks. The Vikings’ running backs were featured heavily today as Latavius Murray led the rushing attack with 76 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Jerrick McKinnon had just 24 rushing yards on his nine carries, but his damage was done mostly through the passing game as he had seven catches for a career-high 114 yards.

With the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings finally put one-time franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out on to the field for the first time since summer 2016. Despite going 0-2 with an interception, fans were mostly just glad to see the young man take the field again.

The Viking defense was back to their usual selves yesterday. They held the Bengals’ anemic offense without a score through the first three quarters. The starters were able to sit on the sidelines in the fourth. The Vikings held the Bengals to just 161 yards of total offense while also getting interceptions from Eric Kendricks, who returned his for a score, and Terence Newman. The Vikings also made life miserable for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, holding him to 11 of 22 for just 113 yards while taking him down three times.

Minnesota may have gotten some help in their march for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs as well. The Carolina Panthers held off the Green Bay Packers, 31-24, despite the return of Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A victory by the Falcons over Tampa Bay  Monday will eliminate the Packers from playoff contention. If that happens, the question will be whether or not the Packers continue to play their star quarterback, who is still healing from a broken collarbone.

One thing is certain. The Vikings have checked off the immediate priorities. They are officially in the playoffs and they have won their division. Now, they simply need to hold serve and hope the top-seed Eagles slip up. Otherwise, winning out guarantees Minnesota a first round bye and at least one home playoff game.

The Good

  • The Vikings took advantage of a Bengals squad that appeared to have already called it a season. Word came out prior to the game that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis would be stepping down at the end of the season. The team has been reeling since a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, blowing the lead late, and effectively costing them any real chance at a playoff push.
  • Despite a quiet game from top receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Vikings were still able to move the ball effectively through the air with McKinnon leading the way.
  • The fans made their voices loud and clear when the fourth quarter started: they wanted Bridgewater on the field. With an insurmountable lead, there was no reason not to put him in. And head coach Mike Zimmer obliged the home crowd. It had been nearly two years since we last saw Bridgewater on the field for a real game.

The Bad

  • The only bad thing was Bridgewater looking jittery on his first pass attempt. Though his pass to McKinnon was high, it was still a catchable ball. The rust was expected, given the time since the injury. Hopefully the Vikings will have more opportunities to get him some more playing time in the two remaining games before the playoffs begin.
  • Penalties were a problem once again for Minnesota; they had 11 for 93 yards. This has crept back up in recent weeks. The Vikings had been a fairly disciplined team as of late. Hopefully this does not continue to be a problem moving forward.

 

– Clayton R. Brooks II writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @ClaytonRBrooks2. Like and follow @fpc_vikings on Twitter and Full Press Vikings on Facebook.

 

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