Minnesota Vikings Vs. Cincinnati Bengals | 10 Thing We Learned
Going into this contest between a 10-2 Minnesota Vikings team and the 9-3 Cincinnati Bengals, many felt that we’d finally get to see the true identity of both teams.
And regardless of what side you were cheering for, it’s hard to argue that we didn’t see exactly that.
Besides Minnesota proving they were easily the better team in a 30-10 win, here are 10 points (five for each team) that show things that were revealed to us in Sunday’s game:
1. Carson Palmer Isn’t an Elite Quarterback
It’s not because he threw for a measly 94 yards and couldn’t move the ball effectively on Sunday, but more a combination of all of his unspectacular performances, all rolled into one. Sunday was just the culmination of him being revealed for what he is.
Take away Palmer’s five-touchdown destruction of an inept Chicago Bears defense over a month ago, and the guy has just 12 throwing scores on the season.
Any way you look at it, for whatever reason, he simply isn’t playing elite football.
2. Cedric Benson Is Top Notch
The Williams Wall wasn’t willing to admit it coming into this game, but it has to be a fact now; Benson is the real deal.
No nagging injuries, and inept passing offense, and a tough defensive match-up can truly stop him. If he gets the carries, he will eventually produce.
It’s just now coming to light that this Bengals offense can and will only be successful if he has the ball in his hands.
3. Cincinnati’s Defense is OK
They’re a solid unit that has easily benefited, much like other “elite” defenses, from facing weak competition for most of the season. Don’t get me wrong, they had excellent performances against the Broncos, Ravens, and Steelers earlier this season, but it’s clear they can only do so much.
What we learned on Sunday is that they cannot effectively stop a team that can both run and pass the ball on an elite level. And the saddest part was the Vikings still weren’t on the top of their game.
4. Jonathan Joseph is Damn Good
Give the guy some respect, because like it or not, he’s the only true dynamite performer on this over-rated defense.
He prevented an easy leaping touchdown grab by knocking the ball out of Sidney Rice’s hands, and then made a nice interception after the pass rush forced Brett Favre out of the pocket.
But give the guy a break, too. He can’t do it all on his own.
5. Outside of Chad Ochocinco, The Receiving Corps Stinks
We probably already guessed that, but it was even more visible on Sunday. Antoine Winfield’s return probably didn’t make it any easier on Laveranues Coles and co. to take the pressure off of Chad Ochocinco, but let’s face it; they weren’t doing that great of a job before, either.
Even before Chris Henry went down a few weeks back, this receiving corps left a lot to be desired. This clearly plays into Carson Palmer’s under-whelmin play, as well, and directly effects the success of the ground game against elite defenses.
1. Brett Favre Isn’t Fading
You can look at it in two ways. Either the Bengals pass defense isn’t very good, and Favre’s late-season slide is beginning right on time, or he just played decently against a very good pass defense.
This writer votes that it’s somewhere in between. Jonathan Joseph, as noted above, made two solid plays, one which halted a good drive, and another that prevented a nice touchdown (even though Minnesota scored on the next play).
Going into this game, the Bengals were still regarded as a top defense, and judging by that, you have to say Favre and the rest of the offense responded very well, and took care of business. The next two outdoor road game will go a long way in proving whether or not Favre is truly in the middle of another late-season fade.
2. Minnesota Is Going Back to Adrian Peterson
As they should be. Peterson had a tough time in Week 13, as he ran for just 19 yards on 13 carries, and this forced Brett Favre into his first two interceptions in nearly 10 weeks.
The Vikings went to a more balanced attack, and even against a supposedly dominant defense, it paid off. We’re getting to the point in the season where it’s time for Peterson to truly prove he deserves the “best running back in the league” label.
Favre has had a great season, and should still remain a big part of the offense, but if we learned anything from this game, it’s that Peterson’s role might be back as the main source of this offense’s production.
3. Percy Harvin Is A True X-Factor
Even though the offense ran fairly smoothly and there weren’t any negative issues in the special teams’ performance, you can’t help but wonder how Brett Favre and the rest of the offense would have played if Harvin’s migraines hadn’t held him out.
The Bengals are very average in defending slot receivers, while Favre and the Vikings love their slant routes and allowing their receivers to make plays after the catch.
Now that we (and the Vikings) know what Minnesota is capable of without Harvin, this offense just got that much more scary.
4. Antonie Winfield Was Sorely Missed
You couldn’t tell when Minnesota was dismantling the likes of the Bears, Lions, and Seahawks, but it was painfully visible last Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals:
Winfield was missed in the secondary-badly.
In his return on Sunday, he showed just how much of an impact the Vikings were without, as he recorded nine tackles, forced a fumble before half-time that likely changed the tone of the game, and played great defense on Chad Ochocinco.
Ochocinco got his “guaranteed” touchdown on a beautiful 15-yard play, but was then completely shut-down the rest of the way, catching just two more passes for a combined 12 yards.
Winfield’s excellent coverage and solid tackling allowed the defensive line to pressure Carson Palmer all day long, and showed a glimpse of what this defense is capable of when healthy.
5. The Loss to the Cardinals Was an Aberration
I’m not taking any credit away from the Cardinals, or completely excusing the Vikings weak play in front of the nation. The Cardinals wanted and needed that game more, and out-played the Vikings in every facet of the game.
However, with Winfield back and the way the offense performed against a solid defense, there are once again high hopes and Super Bowl aspirations in Minnesota.
This team still looks very dangerous on both sides of the ball, especially if they lock up a first round bye.