Peterson back, but Vikings fall to Bengals 42-14

Even with Adrian Peterson back, the Vikings couldn’t keep up

with a team that’s always hot at home.

Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes, and Peterson spent most

of the second half watching from the bench as the Cincinnati

Bengals finished off a 42-14 victory on Sunday that clinched a

playoff spot for them.

This one got away fast from a team that’s accustomed to giving

up a lot of points.

Linebacker Vincent Rey returned an interception 25 yards for a

touchdown as Cincinnati’s defense set up another fast start for the

Bengals, who are 7-0 at home. They’ve scored at least 40 points in

each of their last four home games, a franchise first.

Too much for Minnesota (4-10-1) to match.

”Turnovers definitely decided the game,” said Peterson, who

sat out most of the second half with the Vikings far behind. ”We

put them in a position to play the game the way they wanted to

play.

”It’s tough getting behind the 8-ball like we did.”

The Vikings have allowed 467 points this season, most in the

NFL. They’ve given up 40 points four times in the last nine

games.

Having Peterson back didn’t matter much.

Peterson missed the last game with a sprained right foot. He was

limited in practice during the week but wanted to play. Coach

Leslie Frazier decided to rest him after the game got out of

hand.

Peterson had 11 carries for 45 yards, his longest run 11

yards.

”I lobbied a little bit (to stay in), but is it really worth

the risk?” Peterson said. ”I don’t feel like I played with as

much confidence as I need. I was a little hesitant. My body is just

not responding like I want it to.”

The Bengals noticed.

”Personally, I don’t think he is healthy,” safety George Iloka

said. ”He didn’t seem like himself out there.”

The Bengals (10-5) remained perfect at home and clinched an

unprecedented third straight playoff appearance when Miami lost at

Buffalo 19-0.

Something about Paul Brown Stadium brings out the best in

Dalton. In his past four home games, Dalton has thrown for five,

three, three and four touchdowns.

Dalton has thrown 31 touchdown passes this season, one shy of

Carson Palmer’s club record from 2005. Dalton replaced Palmer in

the 2011 season and has led his team to the playoffs in each of his

first three seasons, only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to

do so.

His biggest shortcoming: 0-2 with two poor showings in the

playoffs. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990

season, tied for the seventh-longest stretch of futility in NFL

history.

He had good conditions for throwing the ball – breezy with

temperatures in the 50s. And the defense helped out, too.

Dalton threw touchdown passes of 29 yards to A.J. Green and 16

yards to Jermaine Gresham as the Bengals pulled ahead 28-7 before

halftime, the most points that Minnesota had allowed in an opening

half.

Two of Cincinnati’s first three touchdowns came courtesy of the

defense. Rey’s interception and touchdown return made it 21-7.

Giovani Bernard pulled off the game’s flashiest play, turning a

short pass into a 41-yard play in the third quarter by doing a

complete spin to avoid a tackler, stiff-arming another and reaching

the 7-yard line. Dalton passed to Mohamed Sanu for his third

touchdown. Green made a one-hand grab of a 2-yard pass for another

TD.

Matt Cassel was 13 of 27 for 114 yards with one touchdown and

three interceptions. The Vikings took advantage of Dre Kirkpatrick

for their first touchdown – the cornerback played off Jarius

Wright, went for a fake and stumbled, allowing the receiver to run

past him for a 36-yard score.

Asked if Cassel will start the final game, Frazier said, ”We’ll

sit down and talk about it, but my initial thought would be

yes.”

NOTES: The Vikings were 0 for 9 on third down and 0 for 2 on

fourth down. … Minnesota managed only 209 total yards, its

second-lowest total of the season. … WR Jerome Simpson, a former

Bengal, was limited to one catch. … Bengals TE Tyler Eifert sat

out the second half with a pinched nerve in his neck. … Pat Haden

of the Rams, Dan Marino of the Dolphins, Bernie Kosar of the Browns

and Joe Flacco of the Ravens are the other four QBs to lead their

teams to the playoffs in each of their first three seasons.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org