Matt Cassel is expected to keep the starting job for the season finale, but his turnovers gave the Vikings little shot at winning. He and Leslie Frazier react to the performance and future, and we have almost two dozen game notes to help tell the tale of the game.
Just when it appeared as though the Vikings may have found their starting quarterback of the future thanks to the gutty play of Matt Cassel
over his recent stretch as the starter, he threw his hat in the ring of disappointment in Sunday's embarrassing 42-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals
Cassel completed three of his first five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown Sunday, helping the Vikings tie the game 7-7 early on. In the game's final 55 minutes, however, Cassel completed just 10 of 22 passes for 71 yards and three interceptions, finishing the game with an abysmal passer rating of 32.6.
"Sometimes you're going to have those games. Throughout the course of the year I've tried to do a good job of taking care of the ball and today was one of those instances where we weren't able to get much done offensively," Cassel said.
"We did take a step back today and unfortunately we knew it was going to be a good team, a tough place to play. And at the same time, anytime you go out there you want to perform well and we weren't able to achieve that. That's the part that was disappointing."
While it wasn't all Cassel's fault – he was running to stay upright much of the day, being sacked four times and scrambling to avoid sacks on three other plays – it's a quarterback's job to stop the bleeding. Instead, Cassel turned a paper cut into a blood-gusher by doing his part as the blowout ran downhill and just got worse.
In addition to his three interceptions, Cassel fumbled the ball on the opening drive and the Bengals returned it to the Minnesota 4-yard line before opening up the scoring.
"Turnovers, that's a big deal and we turned it over – I don't know the number of turnovers that we had – but that plays a factor in winning and losing for sure in our league," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "The turnover we got early led to points. The turnovers they got I think for the most part led to points. Those are big plays anytime you get turnovers."
The 2013 season has been typified by poor quarterback play and a revolving door in the starting spot. But, despite his poor performance Sunday, he is expected to start the season finale against the Detroit Lions
"We'll sit down and talk about it, but my initial thoughts would be yes," Frazier said when asked about Cassel starting next Sunday.
Said Cassel: "I would love another opportunity to get out there and play because obviously you want to get this taste out of your mouth. It's a bad feeling anytime you go out there and perform the way that we did offensively."
The Bengals dominance was reflected in just about every significant statistical category. Cincinnati picked up 24 first downs to only 10 by the Vikings, outgained Minnesota 429-209 and ran 77 plays to only 48 for the Vikings.
The Vikings didn't convert a single third down all day, going 0-for-9 and were 0-for-2 on fourth downs. The Bengals converted 8 of 14 third downs – four of seven in the first half and four of seven in the second half.
Factoring in sacks, the Bengals outgained the Vikings in the air 348-94. The Bengals averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt, while the Vikings averaged just 3.5 yards.
The Bengals held the ball for 39:32 of the game's 60 minutes, including 21:53 of the game's final 30 minutes.
Andy Dalton had a career game, completing 27 of 38 passes for 366 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 136.5. In the second half, Dalton completed 13 of 14 passes for 186 yards and two TDs.
The Vikings didn't win a road game all season, the first time since 2001 that Minnesota didn't win a game on the road.
Adrian Peterson was shut down after the Vikings fell behind by 28 points early in the third quarter. Things were so bad that Peterson didn't even lead the Vikings in rushing. He finished the game with 11 carries for 45 yards, nine yards fewer than wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who finished with 54 yards on three carries.
Patterson continues to make a claim to be Offensive Rookie of the Year. He scored his seventh touchdown of the season, giving him three receiving TDs, two kickoff return TDs and two rushing touchdowns. He added to his league leading kickoff return total by bringing back four kicks for 143 yards (a 35.8-yard average).
After Patterson broke off a pair of long returns early in the game, the Bengals went to the same approach other teams have with Patterson, kicking the ball short and allowing the Vikings to start from the 30-yard line or better so as not to put the Vikings in a position for another long return.
Toby Gerhart was active Sunday, but aggravated his hamstring injury following a fumble by Cassel on the game's first drive and he didn't return to the game.
One of the few bright sports was in containing the Cincinnati's ground game. The combination of Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis managed to gain just 44 yards on 25 carries.
Jarius Wright caught a 36-yard touchdown in the first five minutes of the game. That ended up being his only catch, but it was enough to lead the team in receiving yardage.
Not only did the Bengals have five players with more than Wright's 36 yards, all five of those players had at least one reception of 21 yards or more.
Linebacker Audie Cole suffered a knee injury in the first half and was replaced by Erin Henderson in the middle. Henderson responded with a game-high 12 tackles and a forced fumble. Marvin Mitchell played the weakside linebacker spot for Henderson.
Neither Jared Allen nor Brian Robison was able to get his 10th sack of the season, but both came close. Both had a shot at getting one, but forced Dalton to move up in the pocket, where Everson Griffen recorded sacks on back-to-back plays. Allen was credit with half a sack on Griffen's second one, but Allen is still a half sack shy of 10.
Marcus Sherels only had one punt return Sunday, but it picked up 22 yards.
Cincinnati tied an NFL record by scoring more than 40 points in four straight home games.
The dominance lasted throughout the game, outgaining the Vikings 222-100 in the first half and 207-109 in the second half.
Jerome Simpson escaped serious injury on a frightening play in the second quarter. On pass that sailed on Cassel, Simpson leapt into the air to try to catch it and got undercut, landing on his neck and shoulder. After passing the required concussion protocol, he returned to the game.
Fred Evans had a tough day, especially considering that he lines up near the ball before it is snapped. He was called for three encroachment penalties for jumping the snap, including two in the span of three snaps.
The game got off to a wild start, with the two teams combining for five possessions in the first 4:58 of the game and seven possessions in the first 8:32.
After playing in some brutal conditions on the road, the weather was actually pretty pleasant despite winds that gusted over 25 mph. The game time temperature was 55 degrees.
Of the seven teams that had a worse record than the Vikings entering play Sunday, of the five teams that played in the early games Sunday, all of them also lost, keeping the Vikings (temporarily anyway) in the eighth draft position, pending the results of the Oakland and Atlanta games.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.