In a game that felt over by halftime, the Cincinnati Bengals made short work of the visiting Minnesota Vikings and were comfortably scoreboard watching before the final gun fired.
A division title in hand, the Bengals are going back to the playoffs for the third straight year and will have a home game to start things off. In fact, a first-round bye is still possible if they can take down Baltimore in the final week and get some help from Buffalo. The Minnesota Vikings, on the other hand, fall to 4-10-1 in their follow-up campaign to their inspiring 10-6 2012 season and are already mulling over potential Top-10 picks.
You may have switched this game off early to opt for more excitement happening elsewhere, so here are a handful of individual performances you should know about to get you caught up.
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
Just as the Matt Cassel (-5.0) story had turned to one of him taking over the Viking job and using it to build his resume with high points, he turned in an effort he’d like to wipe from the record. The 14.1 passer rating he notched on drop-backs where he wasn’t pressured are about all you need to know from this one. Those 24 unpressured snaps produced just 10 completions for 56 yards on 21 throws, not to mention three interceptions.
One of the picks, of course, was fluky (we’ll discuss more below) but the other two were simply bad passes sent to the hands of waiting linebackers. Adding to the pile, Cassel also lost a fumble on a first quarter sack and saw another possible interception slip through the grip of a diving Adam Jones in the third. In all, 10 of his 13 completions were targeted shorter than 10 yards downfield and on a day of playing catch-up from the early going, that’s not going to bring results.
The Minnesota defense waited until the middle of the fourth quarter to reach a Dalton drop-back with any kind of serious pressure and then, on back-to-back plays, logged sacks to halt a meaningless drive with the score already sitting at the would-be final of 42-14. Birthday boy Everson Griffen was in on both as, on the first, Dalton was spun his way by a speedy rush around the left edge by Brian Robison and, on the second, Griffen’s stunt around center Kyle Cook forced Dalton to slide and be taken down by a Griffen-Jared Allen combo. With each of these three – Griffen (51), Allen (61), Robison (80) – boasting total pressure tallies among the best 4-3 defensive ends in the league this season, such a quiet display speaks volumes for the work put in by the Cincinnati O-line and the quick-release game plan the Bengals brought to the field.
Staying in to Help?
Of the 12 total pressures collected by Bengal defenders, only two – a pair of hurries – were charged to Viking offensive linemen. The remainder were made up of unblocked or clean-up efforts or were tagged to running backs staying in to help. Toby Gerhart couldn’t handle Vincent Rey up the middle on the first –quarter sack-fumble (Q1 13:37) and Adrian Peterson had just as much of a problem with Vontaze Burfict at 7:11 of the second,not looking interested in putting up a fight to stop the sack. Not to be outdone, fullback Rhett Ellison (-1.6 pass blocking and lined up as an in-line tight end on the play) let Carlos Dunlap cruise around the edge for a hit on Cassel with 7:34 left in the final frame.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
Prone to patterns of play that challenge each end of the spectrum, Bengal quarterback Andy Dalton is enjoying one of his good runs right now. Coming off of a four-game span that saw him collect a -12.4 cumulative grade, his past three games have totaled +12.3 and have included two of his top outings of the season. In this one, Dalton rarely found himself under pressure – facing pressure on just eight of 41 drop-backs – and he completed 24-of-32 uncontested throws for 311 yards and four touchdowns. Most impressively, he connected on 12 of the 19 attempts that saw him pushing the ball past 10 yards downfield as the field seemed to be there for the taking all afternoon. The question now is when the current run will end – will he take it on into the playoffs or has he spent this good spell just short of the postseason?
Spending 34 snaps in coverage, Cincinnati cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (-0.5) was targeted only three times, but was challenged deep on each of them for some noteworthy results. In his first effort – his best of the bunch, Q1 13:12 – he ran with Cordarrelle Patterson up the right side and was in fine position to defend the play, although Cassel’s overthrow made that unnecessary. On the Vikings’ next possession, however, Kirkpatrick bit on the first half of an out-and-up double move and gave Jarius Wright an acre of open space up the sideline to haul in what was, at that early stage, a game-tying 36-yard touchdown.
The last, and strangest, of them was a post route in the middle of the second quarter that saw Jerome Simpson blow past the Cincy CB to build a full 5-yard cushion that was spoiled by an underthrown ball coming down 45 yards from the line of scrimmage. Kirkpatrick arrived on the scene as the ball did and the elbow he put to Simpson’s neck (without a call) was immediately set second in importance because the pass itself crashed off of Kirkpatrick’s mask, sprung into the air, and landed in the waiting arms of teammate George Iloka, who was lying on the turf, for a gift interception. The best possible results from one of the cleanest deep-route beatings you’ll see.
A Day in the Green
A.J. Green marked his best-graded day of the season (+4.2) with a pair of touchdown catches that went a distance toward showing his range as a receiver. On the first, a 29-yard ‘go’ in the first quarter, he masterfully made use of the saved space to his outside to step laterally and separate from Chris Cook’s coverage as the ball came in, bringing in the over-the-shoulder thing of beauty at the goal line on a play made to look much easier than it was. On the second, salting away a game already out of reach in the third quarter, Green matched up with Cook again, this time in a short space from the 2-yard line.
Winning this time with body position, Green took a quick back-shoulder Dalton throw in with one hand, securing it to his chest as he spun and fell to the ground. What made this all the more impressive is he pulled it off with Cook draped on him (enough to earn a flag on the play) – Green’s left arm pinned and Cook’s left strapped across the receiver’s body, it was Green’s free right hand that did the work.
– Giovani Bernard forced seven missed tackles in the game with five coming as a receiver, the majority on that one scintillating ‘Play of the Year’ candidate early in the second half.
– Chris Cook allowed receptions to four different receivers on the 10 targets he saw. Mohamed Sanu being the only one in his coverage that didn’t manage to secure a catch – that being the deep jumpball that Sanu got hands to but couldn’t haul in.
– Dalton managed a 136.6 QB rating on the 32 drop-backs where he didn’t use play action.
PFF Game Ball
Heating up before the playoffs – and hoping to keep it going on in – Andy Dalton earns this week’s game ball.
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