The Groans, The Bad And The Ugly

The Vikings offense was up to its inept ways for the second game in a row. The offensive line wilted, and quarterback Daunte Culpepper fired five interceptions while Michael Bennett fumbled away twice. It all added up to a very ugly 37-8 whipping at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Minnesota Vikings were forced to wear their purple jerseys on a warm Cincinnati day, but the heat that their offensive line allowed caused a flurry of turnovers in another road debacle.

This one ended with a decisive 37-8 walloping by the Bengals, who easily overcame a team-record 17 penalties on their way to a 2-0 record, while the Vikings fell to 0-2.

While the offensive line continued to allow pressure all day long on Daunte Culpepper, the quarterback couldn't create on his own, throwing a career-worst five interceptions, and his running game was almost no help. Michael Bennett got the start, but he fumbled twice in his team's first four drives, losing both of the them and leading to 10 points for the Bengals.

All total, Cincinnati scored 24 of its points on Vikings turnovers, a common theme thus far this year in Minnesota. Culpepper had thrown eight interceptions in two games and no touchdown passes (he ran for the Vikings' only score in Cincinnati).

It was typical Vikings road woes, and it started early and often for Minnesota.

Early on, the Vikings didn't look much like they did last week when they played a solid game. On the second play of the game, Carson Palmer found Chad Johnson deep down the middle. Johnson had a step on Antoine Winfield and safety Darren Sharper, and Palmer connected with him in stride for a 70-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead 52 seconds into the game.

The road beating continued on offense when Michael Bennett fumbled his third carry of the game, which the Bengals recovered and quickly turned into a touchdown.

Taking over at the Vikings 48-yard line, Palmer hit T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 19-yard pass on the second play of the drive, and then went to him again for an 11-yard gain on third-and-8. Houshmandzadeh was also the target on Palmer's 12-yard touchdown pass three plays later as the Bengals took a 14-0 lead 8:41 into the first quarter.

The Minnesota offense continued its struggles for the fifth straight quarter, as Mewelde Moore picked up one first down before the Vikings punted away.

The Vikings avoided further embarrassment – at least momentarily – if only because of a penalty on the Bengals. On the first play from scrimmage, Palmer hit running back Chris Perry in the flat and he went 76 yards for a touchdown, but tight end Reggie Kelly was flagged for holding. But that didn't completely stop Cincinnati. Palmer regrouped and hit rookie Chris Henry for a 13-yard pass for a first down, then gave a reverse to Houshmandzadeh for 8 yards for another first down. Chad Johnson got 19 yards once the Bengals were across midfield before safety Willie Offord finally ended the carnage with an interception in the end zone.

The Vikings avoided another tragedy on the first play of the next drive as well. Culpepper fumbled when sacked and the Bengals recovered, but fortune again smiled on the Purple when rookie David Pollack was called for lining up in the neutral zone. But it took only four plays before the Vikings were punting again.

This time the Bengals picked up three first downs and got into field goal range on passes of 21 yards to tight end Matt Schobel and rookie wide receiver Chris Henry for 22 and 11 yards, respectively. Shayne Graham converted the field goal from 40 yards out, and the Bengals had a 17-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first half.

But they weren't done yet. Michael Bennett fumbled away his opportunity for redemption and defensive end Justin Smith recovered. The field position at the 15-yard line was enough to give Graham a 29-yard field goal and the Bengals a 20-0 lead.

Pulling Bennett cured the fumbles, but Minnesota didn't get much better on offense. After a 19-yard completion to Marcus Robinson, Culpepper fired high to Burleson, the ball went off his hands into the hands of the Tory James, similar to a play last week when hard pass went off Moe Williams' hands for an interception.

Palmer continued to take advantage of Minnesota's charity. With the ball near midfield, Palmer completed passes of 10 yard to Chris Perry, 12 to Chad Johnson and 8 and a TD to Schobel for a 27-0 lead 12 seconds before halftime.

The comedy (or tragedy) of errors continued throughout the second half. Culpepper brought Minnesota's first possession of the second half to a screeching halt when he forced a pass to Burleson and cornerback Deltha O'Neal intercepted it.

The Vikings forced the first Bengals punt of the game, but it wouldn't matter much. The offense drove to midfield, but following a 19-yard pass to Burleson, safety Kevin Kaesviharn intercepted Culpepper with 9:38 left in the third quarter.

The Minnesota defense forced two more punts, but the offense continued its atrocious ways. Culpepper fired his fourth interception of the game, his second to O'Neal.

It took only one play for Palmer to find Houshmandzadeh for a 16-yard touchdown and make it 34-0 still in the third quarter.

Like he did in his previous drive, Culpepper ended his next drive with an interception to O'Neal after driving inside the red zone.

Once again, the Bengals capitalized on the turnover, going 68 yards into scoring position before Graham was good from 30 yards out for a 37-0 Cincinnati lead.

The Vikings were finally able to score. Rookie Troy Williamson started it with a 23-yard reception, and Travis Taylor got it across midfield with a 14-yard catch that had 15 yards added when Culpepper was hit late. Jermaine Wiggins and Taylor combined for 23 yards on two receptions before Culpepper took a quarterback draw 5 yards for the touchdown for an inconsequential score that had two points added to it with a pass to Robinson to make it 37-8, the game's final score.

The Vikings dropped to 0-2 amid a warm flurry of mistakes and will need to find the cure Sunday at the Metrodome against New Orleans.

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