Sunday was one of the most forgettable days in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise history, beginning with a report that head coach Marvin Lewis would be walking away from the team at the end of the year and culminating with one of the worst losses of Lewis' career.
Minnesota raced out to an early 17-point lead that eventually swelled to 34 before the Bengals got a late touchdown for the final points in a 34-7 loss.
Since taking a 17-0 lead against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, the Bengals have been outscored 80-17 while dropping three consecutive games.
Sunday’s setback dropped the team to 5-9 and officially eliminated them from the playoffs. Here are six things to know about the game:
Sunday’s 27-point loss came on the heels of a 33-7 rout by Chicago last week, marking just the fourth time in Bengals history they have lost consecutive games by at least 26 points.
“We’re just not playing well,” said wide receiver A.J. Green, who finished with two catches for 30 yards. “We all have jobs to do, we all get paid. We’re not doing our job right now.”
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The last time the Bengals dropped consecutive games by at least 26 points was 2008, with a 34-3 loss to Baltimore in Week 13 and a a 35-3 defeat at Indianapolis in Week 14.
Earlier that season, the Bengals fell 38-10 to Pittsburgh and 35-6 at Houston in Weeks 7-8.
The only other time it happened in franchise history was 2002, 30-3 at Atlanta and 35-7 vs. Tampa Bay in Weeks 3-4.
Backup quarterback AJ McCarron enter the game with 9:18 remaining and led the Bengals to their only points with a six-play, 23-yard drive set up by safety Shawn Williams’ interception against Minnesota backup Teddy Bridgewater.
With the Bengals officially eliminated for the playoffs and the offense in a funk, Lewis was asked if he would consider playing McCarron in the final two games.
“No,” he replied without expanding.
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McCarron, whom the Bengals attempted to trade to Cleveland for a second- and third-round pick on Oct. 31 before the deal fell apart due to a procedural error by the Browns, was 3 of 6 for 19 yards.
He is in the final year of his contract, and whether he will be a restricted or unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins in March is something that will be decided by an arbitrator after the season.
Minnesota drove 75 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the game on the way to building a 17-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the game.
It was just the sixth time in franchise history the Bengals gave up that many points in the first quarter, and just the second in the Lewis era (trailed 21-0 after one quarter in a 30-20 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 15, 2013).
The Bengals had just 26 yards of offense in the opening quarter and no first downs. It was the third consecutive game in which they failed to record a first down in an entire quarter.
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The Vikings had three plays of least 20 yards in the opening quarter, while Cincinnati had one for the entire game.
“They obviously played a lot better than we did today,” Dalton said. “I think that they are not just doing it on one side of the ball, they are doing it at all three phases, and they are a good team.”
The Bengals entered the weekend as the No. 32-ranked offense in the league, averaging 277.2 yards per game. They cemented the last-place standing by gaining just 161 yards against the Vikings.
Cincinnati was ranked 31st in rushing offense but fell to 32nd with just 46 yards while Detroit, who was 31st, had 91.
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And the Bengals’ ranking as the 28th passing offense is sure to drop as well with just 115 yards in Minnesota.
The only other time the Bengals ranked 32nd in total offense was 2008. Their lowest rushing ranking was 29th (2008) and the lowest passing ranking was 31st (2000).
Injury list grows
An already thing Bengals roster was further ravished Sunday with seven players suffering injuries, including six starters.
Safeties George Iloka (shoulder) and Shawn Williams (hamstring), tackles Cedric Ogubehi (shoulder) and Andre Smith (knee), linebackers Vinny Rey (jaw) and Jordan Evans (forearm) all left the game, as did backup running back Brian Hill (undisclosed).
The Bengals already have nine players on season-ending Injured Reserve, and that list could expand this week.
Schedule sorting out
Sunday’s loss locked the Bengals into a third-place finish in the AFC North Division, which moves them a step closer toward finalizing their list of 2018 opponents.
Fourteen of them already known:
Home: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, Oakland, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
Away: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, LA Chargers, Atlanta, and Carolina.
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The two that remain depend on which teams finish in third place in the AFC East (home) and AFC South (away).
Those spots currently are held by Miami in the AFC East and Houston in the AFC South, although Buffalo and the New York Jets could still wind up third in the East, while Indianapolis could still finish third in the South.
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