by Patrick Marek
At halftime, the Cincinnati Bengals presented a show where monkeys rode border collies and chased goats into pens. Unfortunately, for Vikings fans, that was one of the game’s few highlights. The actual contest used up three hours of our lives that we can never get back.
In retrospect, the fact that the Vikings were mauled 42-17 by the Bengals shouldn’t have been all that surprising. The Bengals came into the game undefeated at home, and Minnesota was winless on the road (the win against the Steelers in London doesn’t count because the Vikings were technically the home team). The Bengals entered the game with a high-powered offense, stingy defense, and a great chance at snaring their third straight playoff berth. The Vikings were coming off a decisive home win against the Eagles, and were puffed up and feeling good about themselves. It was a recipe for disaster.
The Minnesota defense could be described as “sieve like,” but that would be disrespectful to all the hard working, dependable sieves in kitchen drawers across the country. When middle linebacker Audie Cole and rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes couldn’t answer the bell because of injuries, it was deja vu all over again for a Vikings defense that has given fans hope in recent games because of aggressive man coverage and well designed blitzes.
Andy Dalton, the quarterback drafted with the thirty-fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft where the Vikings drafted Christian Ponder with twelfth pick, shredded Minnesota for four touchdowns. It could have been more, but the Bengals went into their “mercy offense” early in the fourth quarter.
Dalton has 47 career NFL starts, and is starting to gain respect across the league. With Sunday’s rout over the Vikings, Dalton has now led Cincinnati into the playoffs for three straight seasons.
Dalton came into the game with the reputation for being accurate, consistent, and smart. He proved his intelligence by immediately picking on fragile Vikings cornerback Chris Cook after starter Shaun Prater went out of the game with an injury. Cook managed to get through the game without being seriously injured, which for him is an achievement. However, he probably should be treated for severe burns and smoke inhalation. The last time a Minnesota cornerback was toasted this thoroughly, Steve Smith was doing his “Love Boat” imitation after deep frying Fred Smoot. Chris Cook has defied all odds by not recording one interception in four seasons with the Vikings. Cook is one of thirteen free agents who could be departing Minnesota next season. Volunteers to help pack his bags are now being sought.
Sunday’s train wreck of a defeat should finally put a stake in the heart of Leslie Frazier’s chances of remaining the Vikings coach after this season. The Vikings reverted to the style of play that has become commonplace under Frazier’s leadership: sloppy execution, foolish penalties, and questionable game management. Sunday also shorted the stock of Matt Cassel. Cassel has proven that he is only slightly more accurate than Christian Ponder and tends to lay an egg against good defenses. He is clearly not the long-term answer at starting quarterback for the Vikings. General Manager Rick Spielman now has all the ammunition he needs to clean house with his coaching staff and execute an extreme makeover of the team through an abundant draft and talented free agents.
Next Sunday’s game against the Lions will be the final game of the season and the last to be played at the Metrodome. Don’t miss next Wednesday’s Winona Post for complete team coverage of the old gal’s sendoff.