The Vikings are coming off their best performance of the season and have no questions about who will start at quarterback. In fact, their 48 points against Philadelphia were their highest total in the 32-year history of the Metrodome. As they prepare to play a Bengals team that has not lost at home this season, here are three things you should know about the matchup:
1. Dalton, Ponder decision revisited
Cincinnati used the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft on Georgie wide receiver A.J. Green. The Bengals used their second-round pick on Texas Christian quarterback Andy Dalton.
Dalton visited the Vikings before the draft as they evaluated quarterback prospects. They opted to take Christian Ponder in the first round with the 12th overall pick.
"I had a visit up there before the draft and so I knew there was a possibility," Dalton said on a conference call with Twin Cities media Wednesday. "I knew they were going to be looking for a quarterback and they decided to go with Christian instead of me."
While Ponder is no longer starting for the Vikings, Dalton is trying to become only the fifth starting quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. He has already joined Peyton Manning as the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 3,000 yards in each of their first three seasons.
"I was really, really impressed with his leadership," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said when asked about his impressions of Dalton during the draft process. "And then watching him on tape, he's done a lot of things that we kind of thought he would be able to do. He's a very good football player, a solid player."
Frazier was asked if the decision to take Ponder over Dalton was a close one.
"Christian was our quarterback, we targeted Christian and it worked out fine," he said. "He was our guy. We made that decision early on, and fortunately for us, we got to, I think it was 12, and he was there."
2. Friendly competition between sackers
Defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison are vying to become the first Vikings tandem to record double digits in sacks since 2004. Kevin Williams and Lance Johnstone accomplished the feat that season.
Allen and Robison are tied for the team lead with nine sacks. Robison holds a slight lead in quarterback hurries (38-34).
"I think that's one thing that has made us such a good tandem in the league is being able to compete with each other and use it as a positive," Robison said. "Not get upset when one gets a sack or the other does. That kind of competition just breeds success."
The duo might have a hard time getting to Dalton, who has been sacked only 27 times this season. Dalton gets rid of the ball faster than any quarterback in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus. Dalton's average time from snap to release is 2.23 seconds, which ranks No. 1 in the league.
"It's hard to get around the corner in 2.2 seconds," Robison said. "If you're not going to get the sack, just get your hands up, hopefully bat down some balls and maybe even get a few hits on him."
3. Patterson's role is expanding
Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has gone from virtually invisible in the offense to a leading role. In recent weeks, Patterson has lined up at running back and was given the option to throw a pass on an end-around Sunday against the Eagles.
Frazier hinted that the Vikings might add more wrinkles involving Patterson.
"There are other things that we want to be able to do with him and we'll continue in these final two games to explore some of those," he said. "But he opens up the playbook for sure with his multi-talents. He's a very gifted young man, and we want to utilize all of the gifts that he has."