Cincinnati Bengals clinch playoff spot in win over Vikes


For the first time in franchise history, the Cincinnati Bengals will advance to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Andy Dalton picked apart the Minnesota Vikings' 30th-ranked pass defense, leading the Bengals to a convincing 42-14 rout to clinch at least an AFC wild card spot.

Here's what else we learned in Sunday's game:

1. The pressure is on Cincinnati to wrap up the AFC North and secure homefield advantage in the playoff opener. Leading his team to a 7-0 home record, Dalton has essentially channeled Peyton Manning at Paul Brown Stadium and Eli Manning on the road.

2. Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey has been an underrated playmaker in the second half of the season. He's a significant upgrade on Rey Maualuga in passing situations. Rey opened the game with a strip-sack of Matt Cassel that led to a short BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown. Rey followed that up with a second-quarter pick six on Cassel.

3. We've mentioned offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's head-scratching penchant for burying Giovani Bernard early in games. Gruden got away with it Sunday -- thanks to a pass-heavy game plan and a playmaking defense -- but BenJarvus Green-Ellis has managed to top 4.0 yards per carry just once in the last nine games. This offense averages a full yard more per play with Bernard on the field. Check out his moves on this 41-yard screen play.

4. Marvin Jones has flashed playmaking ability as a wild card in the Bengals offense, but his effectiveness has hinged on Dalton's home-away splits. Jones has averaged 57 yards and nearly one touchdown per game in 10 wins, versus 29 yards and one total score in the five losses.

5. With apologies to Adrian Peterson, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson is vying for the title of "most exciting player on the roster." At least three of his kickoff returns looked they had a chance to go the distance. He finally found the end zone late in the game on a 35-yard carry out of the backfield. The next coaching staff will have to make it a priority to feature Patterson's run-after-catch skills as a major part of the offense.

6. Matt Cassel's string of quality games just floundered on the rocks. He was responsible for four turnovers, including the pick six and strip-sack that led directly to a touchdown. There's a reason why he's viewed as a backup at this stage of his career.

7. The Bengals lost the league's leading tackler Vontaze Burfict (head) and tight end Tyler Eifert (stinger) to injuries. Those are two key players for the season finale against the Ravens.

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