- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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Peterson's health: Running back Adrian Peterson came out of Sunday's game once the Bengals built an insurmountable lead, and even Peterson -- who said he was "devastated" by the Vikings' decision to hold him out the previous week with a sprained foot -- couldn't argue with this one too much. The question now is, will Peterson come back for the final game of the season against the Detroit Lions? He's unlikely to be completely healthy next week, and with nothing on the line for either team, it might make sense to sit Peterson down, rather than risking an injury in a meaningless game. Peterson effectively lost his shot at a second straight rushing title Sunday, and although he'll probably want to play, it doesn't seem to be worth starting him.
Third-down meltdown: The Vikings' defense has been one of the NFL's worst on third down all season, but even by their standards, Sunday's game was ugly. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hit eight of his 11 throws on third down, for 137 yards and a touchdown. In the process, he helped the Bengals convert six third downs of 7 yards or longer. It helped that he didn't face much pressure all day from the Vikings' defense; he saw four or fewer pass-rushers on 27 passes and completed 21 of them for 293 yards. The Vikings have allowed a 71.9 QBR when rushing four this season, which is the fourth-worst total in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and on a day when the Vikings again brought little extra pressure, Dalton shredded them on passing downs.
Patterson's big day wasted: The Bengals were the second team to kick to rookie Cordarrelle Patterson in the past month, and Patterson responded by returning four kicks for 143 yards, staking the Vikings to an average starting position of their own 43 on those returns, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Patterson also had a 35-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but his returns set up just one Vikings touchdown.
Frazier's future: Coach Leslie Frazier said he's focused solely on Sunday's game against the Lions, not on his own job status. But in a week in which neither team has much on the line, other than the future of its coach, what kind of an effort will Frazier be able to coax out of his team? The Vikings will talk all week about playing hard and finishing on a positive note, but no player wants to get hurt in the final week of the season and spend much of his offseason recovering. The final game at the Metrodome figures to have some energy, and the many players who are voicing support for Frazier will have one more chance to play hard for him. But will that translate into a win, and will a win mean anything for Frazier? It's sure to be a topic we'll revisit throughout the week.