One week after being embarrassed by the Arizona Cardinals on national television during a Sunday night game, the Vikings rebounded for a convincing 30-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at the Metrodome.
The win not only got the Vikings back on track but clinched a spot in the NFC playoffs with three weeks left in the regular season. The Vikings are now sitting at 11-2 and will wrap up their second consecutive NFC North title this Sunday with a victory at Carolina.
Minnesota actually could win the division before kickoff if the Green Bay Packers lose their late afternoon game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
The Vikings' one-sided victory over the Bengals was impressive in that it came against a team that could have clinched its division with a win. Minnesota entered Sunday having beaten only one team (the Packers) who were above .500 entering the day. That total now stands at two.
Although Vikings players said their confidence was not shaken by the loss at Arizona, they made no secret of the fact it was important to get back on track against the Bengals.
"We wanted to come out and prove that last week was a fluke and show that we are a great team," linebacker Ben Leber said. "You don't want to be in December and lose two games in a row. It was important that we come out and play well."
Coach Brad Childress said the Vikings were not even thinking about wrapping up a playoff spot yet, and cornerback Antoine Winfield made it clear the emphasis was simply on playing a solid and sound football game.
"Our focus wasn't even on (the playoff berth)," Winfield said. "The thing we wanted to focus on was having a good week of practice and going out and winning this game. It was kind of embarrassing to go out there and lose that way on Sunday night against Arizona. It's good to get it out of the way."
Although the Vikings trail the New Orleans Saints by two games in the race for the best record in the NFC, they still are playing for at least the No. 2 seed in the conference as well as the division title. The second seed would be crucial because it will mean a first-round bye in the playoffs and then a home game.
LINEUP WATCH: Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield returned after missing six games because of a foot injury. The veteran's return enabled Benny Sapp to move back to the slot position in the nickel exclusively. Winfield was impressive in his return, recording a team-leading nine tackles and also forcing a fumble late in the second quarter that led to a Ryan Longwell field goal.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6,000 — Career pass completions that Brett Favre reached in the victory over Cincinnati. That makes him the first player in NFL history to get to that mark. Favre now has 6,015 completions. Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino is second with 4,967 completions.