What Went Wrong: 5 Takeaways From The Bengals Loss

Posted Dec 22, 2013

The Vikings traveled to Cincinnati this weekend in search of their first road win of the season. The Bengals entered the game 9-5 and perfect at home, and the Vikings saw first-hand exactly why the Bengals are such a good team in their own building. Cincinnati jumped up early 7-0 but the Vikings punched right back and tied the game later in the 1st quarter. From there, though, it was all Cincinnati as they kept pouring on the points.

The final tally was Cincinnati 42, Vikings 14. So what went wrong? Here are a few ideas…

Too many turnovers
The Vikings turned the ball over on their first series of the game, leading to the Bengals first touchdown, and in total the Vikings turned the ball over four times compared to just one turnover from Cincinnati. Two of the four turnovers resulted in Bengals touchdowns, including a Vincent Rey pick-six, and another turnover was an interception that was the result of an underthrown pass intended for a wide open Jerome Simpson, who had run past the Bengals defense and would’ve scored had a completion occurred. It’s hard enough to win on the road when you play a clean game, but it nears on the impossible to win on the road when you surrender four possessions to turnovers and consequently give your opponent good field position to boot.

Couldn’t capitalize on good field position
Providing quality field position for the defense and offense has been a strongpoint of the Vikings special teams group once again in 2013. That theme continued on Sunday in Cincinnati, with the Vikings average drive start after a kickoff being the Minnesota 36 and the average drive start overall being the Minnesota 34. Those are great numbers produced by a special teams group that has been great for much of the season.

Unfortunately, the Vikings were unable to capitalize on this against Cincinnati. Defensively, the Vikings took the field with Cincinnati backed up inside its own 20 six times. But two of those drives resulted in touchdowns, with the other four drives ending in two punts, a turnover on downs and an end of half (halftime). One of the two punts didn’t occur until Cincinnati had driven 45 yards on eight plays to flip field position, and the turnover on downs didn’t happen until the Bengals put together a 13-play, 44-yard drive to flip field position once again.

Offensively, the Vikings started at their own 40 or better six times, but came away with just seven points in those six drives. One of those drives ended in a turnover, two ended in punts and two others ended with a turnover on downs.

Out-played on 3rd down
One point of emphasis coming from head coach Leslie Frazier’s press conference was the fact that, on both defense and offense, the Vikings didn’t perform well enough on 3rd down. Offensively, the Vikings were zero for nine on 3rd downs, failing to extend drives as they tried to keep pace with the Bengals offense; the Vikings were also zero for two on 4th down. Cincinnati, on the other hand, was eight of 12 at one point and finished eight of 14, as they continuously extended drives after the Vikings defense had forced them into 3rd downs. This allowed Cincinnati to maintain possession, grind away at an under-manned and injured Vikings defense, and ultimately put up 42 points.

Couldn’t stop the Bengals passing game
The Cincinnati faithful calls quarterback Andy Dalton the “Red Rifle” and on Sunday against the Vikings Andy Dalton was red hot. Dalton finished the day 27 of 38 for 366 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 136.5. He was sharp all day, avoided pressure for the most part and spread the ball out to eight different receivers, including three different receivers on his four scoring throws. Perhaps more impressively is the fact that of the Bengals 24 1st downs, 20 of them came through the air.

Couldn’t get the passing game going
While the Vikings offense couldn’t generate much on the ground against Cincinnati, they are a group that proved they could overcome that shortcoming when last week they hung 48 points on the Eagles despite averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. In Cincinnati, though, the Vikings weren’t able to ignite their passing game to overcome the lack of a ground game. Quarterback Matt Cassel battled courageously once again, but struggled to find open receivers and wound up being sacked four times and throwing three interceptions. He finished the day 13 of 27 for 114 yards with one touchdown – a beautiful 26-yarder to Jarius Wright after the second-year receiver put a perfectly-executed double move on the Bengals secondary. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep pace with a Bengals passing game that put on a clinic.