Vikings snap Texans’ winning streak
By Dave Campbell
MINNEAPOLIS — Andre Johnson couldn’t find free space. Jacoby Jones had no room. Houston’s quarterbacks faced plenty of pressure.
By bottling up — and beating up — the Texans’ standouts, Minnesota’s defense got the victory it deserved. The Vikings offense had plenty to do with it, too.
Johnson was held to 62 yards on four receptions and a late score, and the Vikings forced three turnovers and got three touchdown passes from Gus Frerotte in a 28-21 victory over the Texans on Sunday.
"If you talk about a complete game where we put everything together," Frerotte said, "that’s what we did today."
Minnesota (4-4) was recharged against a team trying to win four straight games for the first time in its six-year history. Houston (3-5) played all four October games at home due to a hurricane-related postponement and found further trouble on the road. Since the start of 2005, the Texans are 4-24 away from Reliant Stadium.
The Vikings let Johnson get loose on third down when a 14-yard pass from Sage Rosenfels to the corner of the end zone cut the lead to seven with 2:58 left, but the NFL’s leading receiver finished well short of his recent standard.
Johnson matched two league records by posting at least 130 yards in his previous four games and 10 or more catches in his past three, but the Vikings had him bracketed all afternoon.
Cornerback Cedric Griffin covered him well, and safeties Madieu Williams and Darren Sharper provided support until his late touchdown.
"I guess the coach told him, ’Just beat him up,"’ Johnson said. "I got thrown down a couple of times, and things like that. They came up with a great game plan."
The only other time these teams have met, an overtime victory by the Vikings on the road in 2004, Johnson had 12 receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
"We did a great job to re-route him," coach Brad Childress said. "That’s a timing offense. When the quarterback’s able to get back there and set his feet and get the ball out with a clean look and know what coverage they’re attacking, they’re pretty good."
Williams intercepted Rosenfels in the end zone in the third quarter, and Antoine Winfield picked off Schaub at the Vikings 5 before he was sidelined at halftime by an injury to his left knee. Ben Leber fell on a fumble by Schaub in the first half that preceded a 49-yard touchdown pass from Frerotte to Bernard Berrian.
"If we can just eliminate those mistakes we’re as good as any offense, any team in this league," said Rosenfels, who went 21-for-29 for 224 yards, two touchdowns and the costly interception. "We thought we were pretty equal to this team. We thought this was a team we could play four quarters with. We did that, but they made the plays and we made the mistakes."
The Texans got the ball back with 1:57 left at their own 10, but Rosenfels was sacked twice to end any chance of tying it. Jared Allen reached out from around his blocker and yanked him to the turf with one hand on third down, and Kevin Williams finished him off on fourth down. The Vikings had five sacks.
"That’s how you kill a 2-minute drive," Allen said. Adrian Peterson scored early and ground down the Texans late with three long gains — for 40, 21 and 22 yards — in the second half to keep the clock moving. He finished with 139 yards on 25 carries and set the Vikings up nicely for a 25-yard pass from Frerotte to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for a touchdown that made it 28-14 with 6:26 remaining.
"As an offense we know the things we can do when we don’t hurt ourselves with turnovers and penalties," Peterson said.
That’s precisely the way the Texans felt after this one.