CINCINNATI (AP) — 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.
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