Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka snagged the first interception of his NFL career, and linebacker Vinny Rey recorded his first pick six at any level as part of one of defense’s best performances of the season Sunday in a 42-14 trouncing of Minnesota.
Iloka has been lamenting all season how close he has come to getting his first interception, and against the Vikings one literally fell in the second-year player’s lap.
Iloka and Dre Kirkpatrick were double-teaming Minnesota wide receiver Jerome Simpson when quarterback Matt Cassel’s pass his Kirkpatrick in the facemask and fell to Iloka as he lay on the ground.
“Karma had my back today,” Iloka said. “That’s just how it is. When you run to the ball, you’ll get more opportunities like that. It felt good. It literally felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
His interception didn’t lead to any points, but Rey’s did.
The third-year player jumped in front of a short pass intended for Greg Jennings on third and 2 and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 21-7 lead with 10:02 left in the second quarter.
“I was just dropping in my zone and doing my job and everyone else doing their job and that enabled me to see (Cassel) get ready to release the ball,” Rey said. “I just did what I’m coached to do. I heard the crowd and I just kept running. I was like ‘Please no one catch me.’”
Carlos Dunlap likely was saying the same thing, but his wish didn’t come true. Dunlap nearly got his first touchdown of the season when he scooped up a Cassel fumble forced by safety Reggie Nelson on the third play of the game and returned it 42 yards to the Minnesota 4-yard line.
“I rested,” said Dunlap, who got caught from behind by Minnesota running back Toby Gerhart. “I’m supposed finish through the line.”
Asked how much grief he got from his teammates, Dunlap said “A lot, because I always talk to crap to them. I felt like that would never it happen to me, and it happened today. I won’t let it happen again.”
The Bengals still got points when BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored two players later for a 7-0 lead just 108 seconds into the game.
Linebacker Rey Maualuga also contributed one of the four turnovers with his first interception since 2011.
Chasing Carson: The four touchdown passes Andy Dalton threw Sunday gave him 31 for the season, breaking his previous career high of 27 while leaving him one shy of the franchise record Carson Palmer set in 2005.
Dalton was 27 of 38 for 366 yards with the four touchdowns and no interceptions for a career-high passer rating of 136.5. His previous high was 135.9, which he set earlier this year at Detroit.
He has not thrown an interception since the first half of the San Diego game Dec. 1, a span of 128 attempts.
With the 366 yards, Dalton also joined Palmer as the only quarterbacks in franchise history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. Palmer had 4,131 in 2007 and 4,035 in 2006. Dalton has 4,015, which means he will need just 117 next week against Baltimore to set the team record.
Long drives: The Bengals put together another long touchdown drive Sunday when they broke a 7-7 tie by going 90 yards in 10 plays.
It was the 11th time this season the team has driven for a touchdown when starting inside its 20-yard line, which is the most in the NFL.
And it was the seventh time the Bengals have had a touchdown drive of 90 yards or longer after compiling just one in 2012 and one in 2011.
Powell punts: Signed Tuesday to replace the injured Kevin Huber, Shawn Powell did a decent job in his debut as Bengals punter.
Powell punted four times for a 40.0-yard average and a 34.5 net. His longest punt was his first, a 52-yarder down the middle of the field that Minnesota’s Marcus Sherels returned 22 yards.
None of Powell’s other three punts were returnable, including one Sherels fair caught at the 12.
“I thought Shawn did a good job,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “I thought his first punt was a little too in the middle of the field. On the last one I told him to make sure (Sherels) didn’t touch it. He did what he needed to do.”
Peterson plods: The Bengals held Minnesota All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson to 45 rushing yards on 11 carries before Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier pulled his star from the game after one carry in the second half.
Peterson suffered a foot injury two weeks ago and did not play last week against Philadelphia.
“I didn’t think it was wise to keep playing him,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how he is this week, but it just wasn’t the right thing to do to keep him in there today.”
Perfect ending: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis entered the game a perfect 6 for 6 in replay challenges this season, but that perfect run came to an end with 8:16 left in the game when Lewis tried to challenge that Minnesota quarterback Matt Cassel lost the ball before being sacked by Carlos Dunlap and Domata Peko. —