A week after an ugly 30-17 loss in Arizona raised doubts about the previously one-loss Vikings, the team from Minnesota returned home and served up a 30-10 thumping of the previously 9-3 Bengals.
After the Bengals cut the score to 10-7 late in the first half, the Vikings drove quickly for a field goal and then recovered a fumble inside the Cincinnati 30 with five ticks before intermission.
By halftime, a three-point lead had become nine.
Then, when Cincy kicker Shayne Graham parked the third-quarter kickoff out of bounds, the Vikings covered 60 yards in 10 plays, with running back Adrian Peterson literally flying into the end zone on third and goal from the one.
The Bengals had a chance to make it interesting, driving inside the Minnesota 10. But when the Vikings defense stiffened, coach Marvin Lewis played it safe, taking the three points instead of attempting to cut the lead in half.
After a trade of punts, Minnesota drove 67 yards in 11 plays to seal the deal, with another Peterson touchdown run.
For the game, Brett Favre completed 17 of 30 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. In the third quarter, he took a crunching hit from Bengals defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who drove Favre into the plastic grass — and jammed his helmet into Favre’s jaw. Though Favre was motionless for a second or two — during which the hearts of Vikings’ fans stopped beating — he got up and kept playing.
The victory sealed a playoff berth for the Vikings. They need one win or a Green Bay loss to secure a second straight NFC North title.
The Bengals blew a shot at winning the AFC North. And given the manner in which the Ravens and Steelers have disintegrated this season, it’s hard to get a solid feel for this Cincinnati team, whose best win came against a Packers team at a time when that team was a shell of the team it is now.