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Vikings Claim NFC North Crown with 34-7 Victory Over Bengals


View game action images at the Vikings take on the Bengals at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.


MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings are again kings of the NFC North.

Minnesota clinched its second division title in three seasons with a 34-7 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday.

While the 27-point margin was larger than any Vikings victory this season, this win was like so many so far in 2017. The Vikings defense mauled the Bengals for three-plus quarters, the offense delivered explosive plays during some drives and controlled the clock on others, and special teams played solid throughout the game.

Minnesota's defense dominated on third downs, limiting Cincinnati to 1-for-13 for the game, including 0-for-7 in the first half. One of those unsuccessful tries was thwarted by Eric Kendricks' second career interception.

Kendricks returned the pass 31 yards for a touchdown that put Minnesota up 14-0 in the first quarter.

The Bengals (5-9) totaled just 42 net yards in the first half, and quarterback Andy Dalton was 4-of-10 passing for 38 yards and a passer rating of 11.7 in the first half. He lost 17 yards on three sacks.

Brian Robison sacked Dalton twice, moving his career total to 59 in his 171st game, and Danielle Hunter recorded his seventh sack of the season.

Dalton's counterpart Case Keenum was 13-of-15 passing for 160 yards that included a 20-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs. Keenum also had a 20-yard scramble, topping out at 17.5 mph, according to Next Gen Stats.

Keenum finished 20-of-23 passing for 236 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and a passer rating of 138.4. He earned his ninth win as a starter in Purple, helping the Vikings improve to 11-3 on the season before handing off the huddle to Teddy Bridgewater.

The home crowd welcomed back Bridgewater for his first action in a regular-season game in U.S. Bank Stadium history. Bridgewater played in the 2016 preseason in the venue's inaugural season but suffered a knee dislocation in practice.

Bridgewater handed off to Jerick McKinnon twice before attempting his first pass, a throw out of reach of McKinnon that was nabbed by safety Shawn Williams to set up the Bengals at the Vikings 23-yard line. Cincinnati scored its only touchdown of the day with 6:22 remaining against Minnesota's reserves.

The day and the division, however, belonged to the Vikings, who visit Green Bay next week before hosting Chicago in Week 17. By winning the NFC North, the Vikings will host at least one NFC postseason game.

McKinnon led the Vikings with a career-best 114 receiving yards on seven catches.

The Vikings had 346 net yards, compared to 161 by the Bengals and held the ball for nearly 36 of 60 minutes.

Minnesota took a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game when Latavius Murray plowed into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.

The short score was set up by explosive gains and the erasure of an early negative play.

After Keenum was sacked by Geno Atkins on the opening snap of the game, Keenum connected with Murray on a screen pass for a gain of 28. Two plays later, Keenum scrambled for a gain of 20.

Keenum then converted a third-and-3 with a short toss to Adam Thielen, and the receiver turned it into a gain of 21 to the Cincinnati 5.

The teams each had a three-and-punt series, giving the ball back to the Bengals, and Kendricks picked off Dalton on a third-and-6, returning the ball all the way to the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 5:54 remaining.

Minnesota was able to add a 53-yard field goal by Kai Forbath that hit the left upright and bounced through. The kick gave the Vikings a 17-0 lead with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter. It was set up by Minnesota shutting down a fourth-and-1 run by Giovani Bernard to give the Vikings the ball at the Cincinnati 38.

Keenum added a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in the third quarter, connecting with the Cincinnati native's team-leading eighth touchdown of the season.

The Vikings will host at least one playoff game, but the exact scenario remains to be determined. Click*here to sign up for playoff ticket alerts.

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