Vikings 34 Bengals 7, Bridgewater’s Return Highlights Minnesota’s Clinching of the NFC North

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The Minnesota Vikings dominated the Cincinnati Bengals on the way to a Week 15 playoff berth and NFC North division title.

On Sunday, the Vikings clinched their second division title in three years.

The return of starting offensive linemen Pat Elflein and Mike Remmers as well as tight end David Morgan sparked Minnesota’s offense in what turned out to be a decisive victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. But it was the return of another offensive player that electrified US Bank Stadium.

Teddy Bridgewater made his 2017 debut as he entered the huddle with just under 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. With the Vikings up 34-0, Bridgewater walked on to the field as an energetic ovation from the home crowd filled the air.

Chants of “Teddy, Teddy, Teddy” bounced off the concrete barriers, translucent roof and glass doors. Fans raised their arms to the sky in excitement and applauded in appreciation of number five’s homecoming. It sounded as if the Vikings had scored a touchdown. Bridgewater said later he could barely hear the play call.

The return did not yield the kind of performance Bridgewater had hoped for (he went 0-for-2 with an interception and had three kneel-downs for negative three yards), but it was the return Bridgewater fans had long envisioned, and the festive moment came to fruition Sunday.

Speaking of festive moments, here’s a recap of yesterday’s win over Cincinnati.

Game Recap

Case Keenum was sacked by Geno Atkins for a loss of nine yards. On the next play, Keenum connected with running back Latavius Murray on a short pass to his left. Murray broke loose and bolted for a 28-yard gain. From that play on, the Vikings never looked back.

The offense moved the ball at will and scored seven plays later on a one-yard touchdown run by Murray.

Murray would finish as the game’s top rusher. On 20 carries he earned 76 yards (3.8 YPC) and a touchdown. For the season, Murray now has 662 yards with six touchdowns to go along with 13 catches for 94 yards.

After only one series the Bengals offense appeared one-dimensional. The Vikings defense focused on getting to Andy Dalton and disrupting the pass game. They succeeded immediately. Eric Kendricks picked off a Dalton pass on Cincinnati’s second drive and returned it for a 31-yard touchdown.

With 1:30 remaining in the first quarter and the Vikings up 14-0, Kai Forbath added a 53-yard field goal which deflected off the left upright. Forbath made 2-of-2 field goals on the day and drilled all four extra point attempts.

A 20-yard touchdown strike from Keenum to wide receiver Stefon Diggs opened up the game in the second quarter. Diggs’ first touchdown since Week 9 gave the Vikings a 24-0 lead over the Bengals at halftime.

The Vikings took a 27-0 lead in the third quarter after a 35-yard field goal by Forbath. It was the only scoring by either team in the third quarter.

Veteran cornerback Terence Newman picked off Dalton on the Bengals second drive of the second half for his first interception of the season. Newman secured the ball between his legs.

The Vikings defense was relentless. Veteran defensive end Brian Robison led the unit with two sacks and Danielle Hunter contributed his seventh sack of the season.

With 12:53 remaining in the fourth quarter Keenum connected on a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings pulled ahead 34-0. It was Rudolph’s team-leading eighth touchdown of the season.

After a three-and-out by Cincinnati, it was Teddy time. Bridgewater came into the game but threw an interception on his first pass attempt. The ball bounced off the hands of running back Jerick McKinnon.

Although Giovani Bernard scored a late, meaningless touchdown on the ground, the Vikings defense held the Bengals to 46 yards rushing on 20 carries (2.3 YPC).

Keenum completed 20 of 23 (87%) passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He had a QBR of 62.4 and a passer rating of 138.4. He also had 20 yards on the ground. Keenum hit seven different receivers.

His counterpart, Dalton, went 11 of 22 (50%) for 113 yards and two interceptions. He had a QBR of 2.5 and a passer rating of 27.3. Dalton was replaced by AJ McCarron late in the game.

A.J. Green was held to two catches for 30 yards.

McKinnon led Vikings receivers with seven catches for 114 yards. The 25 year-old now has 50 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver this season. On the ground, McKinnon has 484 rushing yards with three touchdowns.

Diggs finished with five catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. He has 53 catches for 724 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Fellow wideout Adam Thielen had three catches for 30 yards. Thielen has 83 catches for 1,191 yards and four touchdowns in 2017.

Under head coach Mike Zimmer the Vikings have won the NFC North title twice in four seasons.

Injury Report

LT Riley Reiff (ankle) did not play.

TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle) played after being listed as doubtful Friday.

CB Mackensie Alexander (ribs) missed Sunday’s game.

WR Jarius Wright (foot) left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return.

UP Next

The Vikings travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers Saturday evening at 7:30pm (CST).