Vikings vs. Bengals: Three important takeaways
1. Special teams stands out
Mike Zimmer had challenged the Vikings’ special teams units to improve after a poor showing on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions; the group had one of its best days of the season on Sunday. Rookie linebacker Eric Wilson stopped Bengals punt returner Alex Erickson for a 1-yard gain on his first return of the day, then forced a fumble on an Erickson return in the second quarter, before nearly blocking a punt late in the second quarter. Ryan Quigley posted a net average of 41 yards per punt, and kicker Kai Forbath hit one of his two field goals from 53 yards (with the help of a bank shot off the left upright).
2. Kendricks makes his Pro Bowl case
Third-year linebacker Eric Kendricks wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl a year ago, after posting 109 tackles, breaking up nine passes and returning an interception for a touchdown, and it’s possible he’ll be overlooked when the 2017 teams are named on Tuesday night. But Kendricks continued to show why he deserves a spot in the game on Sunday, taking his second career interception back 31 yards for a touchdown. He also made a tackle for loss, and was running downfield one-on-one with tight end Tyler Kroft when Andy Dalton missed Kroft on a deep throw. Kendricks’ speed and range help him in the passing game especially, and he’s made a strong case for Pro Bowl recognition.
3. Rhodes gives Green the red light
Little was said about it on Sunday — perhaps because Xavier Rhodes has made such a habit of shutting down top-end receivers — but the Vikings cornerback did it again on Sunday. Rhodes shadowed Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, following the Pro Bowler into the slot on several occasions, and helped hold Green to two catches for 30 yards, as the Vikings limited Andy Dalton to 113 yards on 22 attempts.