MINNEAPOLIS — When the Vikings defense arrived at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday morning, they were an irritable, energetic and hungry bunch.
But most of all, they were motivated.
A week after one of their worst outings of the season, Minnesota's ferocious defense put together one of its best efforts as the unit overmatched Cincinnati in a 34-7 victory.
"Just locked in. We didn't play well last week and had to redeem ourselves after that outing," Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said about the defensive mindset. "All week we focused on getting lined up and doing our jobs. We were able to execute today.
"I think it was good losing, honestly, just to get us all back on track and focused up to try to make the final push," Barr added. "You never want to lose, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. We got refocused."
Added Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks: "It was important to us [to bounce back]. We got beat last week, but we fight no matter what. We fight, we scrap, we know what we want, and we're willing to work to get it."
A defense that ranked among the league's best was at the top of its game Sunday when Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer squared off against the team he was the defensive coordinator for from 2008-2013.
The Vikings allowed a season-low 161 yards of offense, 45 of which came on one play. It was the first time all season Minnesota had kept an opponent under 200 yards of offense.
The Vikings also were strong on third downs, as the league's top third-down defense limited the Bengals to just one conversion on 13 tries.
A week after allowing 216 rushing yards, the Vikings gave up just 46 yards on the ground Sunday.
Zimmer credited a raucous U.S. Bank Stadium crowd for some help with those staggering numbers.
"They did an unbelievable job of helping us," Zimmer said of the crowd. "It was hard for them to communicate at the line of scrimmage. I thought defensively we played very well today."
It was an all-hands-on deck approach by the Vikings defense.
In addition to a 31-yard interception return for a score by Kendricks, Vikings cornerback Terence Newman notched his first pick of the season.
The acrobatic grab occurred as Newman corralled the ball between his legs for his 42nd career interception, which ranks second among all active players (DeAngelo Hall has 43).
Fellow cornerback Xavier Rhodes likened the catch to Michael Jordan's famous Jumpman logo, but Newman was lower key.
"I got lucky on that one. I was lucky I did not drop it," Newman said. "I was fortunate to be able to catch it.
"I jumped and turned, and it hit my shoulder pads," Newman added. "I was just trying to keep it from hitting the ground. The basketball play in the offseason kicked in."
Zimmer gave the player he has now coached for nine seasons plenty of credit for his preparation during the week showing up on the play.
"That was pretty good catching it between his legs. You know, he's so smart," Zimmer said. "he had seen that play previously in a couple games and for him to be able to jump it and make the interception was really good.
"I am sure he knew (Dalton) had pressure coming off the other edge and he couldn't hand the ball of, he had to throw it on the smoke and Terence made a heck of a play," Zimmer said. "I was happy, knowing he was there, too, so I was happy for him, not only for that but I think it shows some of these other players that if you study hard, do your due diligence and you continue to work hard, good things happen for you."
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison recorded a pair of sacks and now has 3.0 sacks on the season. He is ninth all-time in Vikings history with 59 career sacks and played in his 171st game.
"It's really hats off to the guys I'm playing with; they created the opportunities for me," Robison said. "I was just able to capitalize."
Defensive end Danielle Hunter also had a sack, his seventh of the season.
A collective effort led way to a resounding defensive performance, as the Bengals didn't get a first down on eight of their 13 offensive drives. Cincinnati ran just 13 plays all game in Vikings territory.
With the NFC North title now in hand, the Vikings will now hit the road for a Saturday night matchup in Green Bay, the Vikings final regular-season road game of 2017.
"(Today) was a stepping stone," said Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph. "We have a lot more steps to go.
"We are just going to get back to work tomorrow and rally and get ready for Green Bay," Joseph added.