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Bleacher Report – Vikings

In destruction of Bengals, Vikings make it clear how far they have come from last year

By Matthew Coller

Almost one year ago to the day, the Minnesota Vikings needed a win over a sorry Indianapolis Colts team to stay in the playoff race. They collapsed, losing 34-6 at home.

There would be no trap game this time around. The Vikings made the Cincinnati Bengals look like one of those college teams in a bowl game after their coach left for a bigger school.

The Vikings and Bengals came into Sunday’s game at US Bank Stadium as two teams going different directions. Vikings fans were studying tiebreakers this week as they look forward to the playoffs, while Bengals fans learned on Sunday morning that their head coach will depart following this season.

Everything was set up for the Vikings to demolish the Bengals, but the 2016 season (and many other disappointments of the past) left Vikings faithful with a pang of nervousness heading into the game. Then on the first play of the game, quarterback Case Keenum was sacked by defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

But it didn’t take long for the Vikings to remind us that this time around is different.

They promptly picked up 28 yards on a screen pass to Latavius Murray. Rookie center Pat Elflein, who missed last week’s game was his leadblocker. Murray finished a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown.

Eric Kendricks assured the Vikings wouldn’t be in any kind of shootout as he picked off an Andy Dalton throw over the middle and took it into the end zone.

On the following drive, the Bengals failed on fourth-and-1, getting stuffed in the middle by Linval Joseph.

The Vikings added a dagger 20–yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Stefon Diggs late in the second quarter and the Bengals finished with either punts or interceptions on every drive.

Dalton and the Bengals didn’t show any more bite in the second half, allowing the Vikings to put it in cruise control.

Last year against the Colts, the offensive line was shot, the defense got schemed badly and Adrian Peterson was a distraction. All those things have changed for the better.

Two other notable things came out of the Vikings’ destruction of the Bengals. First, if the team was lacking any confidence after last week’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, it was popped right back into place by smacking a downtrodden Bengals team. Second, the Vikings came away without any injuries.

It was clear during the loss to Carolina that the Vikings need to be at full strength – or at least close to it – to have a chance come playoff time. Left tackle Riley Reiff sat out with an ankle injury, but the injury does not appear significant. Kyle Rudolph played after missing the week’s practice.

Now the Vikings are set to head into Green Bay in the driver’s seat to win clinch a first-round bye. That’s quite the upgrade from going to Lambeau Field last year hoping to somehow remain in the race.

The post In destruction of Bengals, Vikings make it clear how far they have come from last year appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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