The Bengals dominated the Vikings 42-14 on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium as Cincinnati clinched a playoff spot for the third straight year.
The Bengals (10-5) racked up 429 yards and forced four turnovers to at least secure the AFC North crown after the Patriots (11-4) routed the Ravens (8-7). Cincinnati can clinch a first round bye with a win of its own against Baltimore and a New England loss to Buffalo (6-9). The Bills helped the Bengals clinch a playoff berth earlier in the day as they shut out the Dolphins(8-7) 19-0. Cincinnati owns the tiebreaker with New England when it beat the Patriots back on Oct. 6.
It took the Bengals just three snaps to set the tone for the game. Matt Cassel was sacked by Vincent Rey and Reggie Nelson which forced a fumble that was picked up by Carlos Dunlap and returned 42 yards to the Vikings' 4-yard line. Two plays later BenJarvus Green-Ellis punched it in for a 7-0 lead.
The Vikings (4-10-1) were given a gift by Jermaine Gresham who fumbled on the Bengals next drive to set up a 36-yard touchdown pass from Cassel to Jarius Wright. The two teams traded punts on their next two drives which allowed the Bengals to showcase their newest addition. With the injury to Kevin Huber, Cincinnati signed punter Shawn Powell, who was released by Buffalo earlier this year.
Cincinnati marched 90 yards on its next drive behind the arm of Andy Dalton. Dalton went 6-of-7 on the drive and finished with 29-yard pass that A.J. Green caught over his shoulder in the end zone. The Bengals added a defensive score next when Rey picked off Cassel and returned it 12-yards for the 21-7 advantage. Cassel's luck only got worse as his next pass hit Dre Kirkpatrick in the helmet and then landed in the arms of George Iloka, who was lying on the ground.
Cincinnati added one more score before the half when Dalton hooked up with Gresham for a 16-yard score.
The Bengals opened the second half with equal success as the first when Giovani Bernard took a short pass, broke several tackles, and scampered 41 yards. That set up a 7-yard touchdown to make it 35-7. That was followed up with a nine play 66-yard drive that ended in a one-handed, juggling, 2-yard touchdown reception by Green.
Cordelle Patterson snapped the scoring streak by the Bengals to finish the scoring at 42-14 with a 35-yard touchdown run.
The win keeps Cincinnati perfect (7-0) at home this season. They will put that record on the line next Sunday when the Ravens come to town. Baltimore needs a win to secure the No.6 seed in the playoffs and earn a return trip to Cincinnati. If the Ravens do win and Indianapolis wins, then the Bengals would host the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4).
Passing: CIN-Dalton (27-38, 366 yards, 4 TD) MIN-Cassel (13-27, 114 yards, TD, 3 INT)
Rushing: CIN-Green-Ellis (12 carries, 24 yards, TD) MIN-Patterson (3 carries, 54 yards, TD)
Receiving: CIN-Green (7 catches, 97 yards, 2 TD) MIN-Wright (1 catch, 36 yards, TD)
Tackles: CIN-Vontaze Burfict (6, 2 sacks) MIN-Erin Henderson (12)
Turnovers: CIN-1 MIN-4
Sacks: CIN-4 MIN-2