Vikings deny Texans home-field playoff advantage

Adrian Peterson had his worst rushing performance in more than

two months on Sunday.

And that was just fine with the Minnesota Viking’s star running

back. He enjoyed watching his teammates pitch in to beat the

Houston Texans 23-6.

Peterson rushed for 86 yards, falling far short of the

2,000-yard mark, yet still helped the Vikings (9-6) keep their

playoff hopes alive with the upset of the Texans.

Christian Ponder threw a touchdown pass, Toby Gerhart added a

score and Blair Walsh kicked three field goals as the Vikings won

their third straight.

”We knew they were going to focus on the run, which is OK,”

Peterson said of the Texans. ”It felt good to see other guys get

involved and us continue to move the ball down and score some


The win raises the stakes for the Vikings, who host Green Bay

next Sunday in the regular-season finale.

”We obviously have a big one next week, and if we don’t win

that one, this one doesn’t mean anything,” Ponder said. ”Our No.

1 goal is to make the playoffs.”

The loss kept the Texans (12-3) from clinching home-field

advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They could still claim the

top spot with a win next week at Indianapolis.

”Very disappointing because we had a chance to line up here and

get something done today,” coach Gary Kubiak said. ”That doesn’t

mean we still can’t get it done. That’s the most important


Peterson had his lowest rushing total since getting 79 yards on

Oct. 14 in a loss at Washington, breaking a streak of eight

100-yard games. Peterson, who is from Palestine, Texas, had more

than 100 family and friends at the game.

He has 1,898 this season and needs 208 yards to break the NFL

single-season rushing record held by Eric Dickerson.

”Of course I care about it,” Peterson said of the record,

”but I’m not going to let it overwhelm me.”

Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said he took Peterson out late as

a precaution because he has a sore abdomen.

”I’ll get some rest and be ready to get a W and break that

record,” Peterson said.

The Vikings took a 10-3 lead when Walsh kicked a 56-yard field

goal. The kick gave Walsh, a rookie, the NFL record with nine field

goals of 50 yards or longer this season.

The Texans failed to score a touchdown for the first time since


”We didn’t play well,” Kubiak said. ”I think we battled

defensively, but offensively we probably played as bad as we’ve

played. I take full responsibility for that. It’s a huge, huge

disappointment. We’ve got to get over it really quick.”

J.J. Watt had a sack to leave him with 20 1/2 and make him the

ninth player in NFL history with at least 20 sacks in a single


Houston got within 10 points before Gerhart’s 3-yard run

extended the lead to 23-6 with about five minutes left in the

fourth quarter. That drive was helped by a 29-yard run by


Ponder, who got married on Monday, was 16 of 30 for 174 yards to

help the Vikings pile up 345 yards. He finished with seven rushes

for 48 yards – 14 more yards rushing than the Texans had.

”Christian had a terrific day throughout, playing with a lot of

poise, a lot of control – he did all the things we needed,”

Frazier said. ”But it was all set up by our run game.”

Arian Foster had 10 rushes for 15 yards before leaving with

about nine minutes left in the third quarter with an irregular

heartbeat. Kubiak said he is OK, but he was taken out as a


Ben Tate took over and didn’t fare much better with four carries

for 17 yards.

The Texans were foiled by their inability to convert third

downs, going 1 of 11. Quarterback Matt Schaub went 18 of 32 for 178


Houston got to the Minnesota 1 with a 12-yard reception by Kevin

Walter late in the third quarter. Then came an incomplete pass

followed by a run for no gain by Tate. Schaub was sacked by Fred

Evans for a loss of 14 yards to make the Texans settle for a

33-yard field to cut the lead to 16-6.

Houston had to punt on its first possession of the third

quarter, but got the ball right back when Watt sacked Ponder and

forced a fumble. Bradie James recovered, but the Texans had to punt


The Vikings extended their lead to 16-3 when Walsh made a

39-yard field goal on the first drive of the second half. That

series was helped when Ponder found Jarius Wright on a 15-yard

reception, and the Vikings got 15 more yards when Whitney Mercilus

was flagged for unnecessary roughness on Ponder.

Houston was on the Minnesota 28 early in the second quarter when

Jasper Brinkley forced Foster’s fumble, which was recovered by A.J.


A 41-yard field goal by Walsh left Minnesota up 13-3 at


Peterson ran for 20 yards to get Minnesota’s offense going. The

Vikings took a 7-3 lead when Kyle Rudolph grabbed a 3-yard

touchdown reception. Rudolph also had a 27-yard catch that


Houston’s Andre Johnson had seven receptions for 97 yards.

NOTES: The Texans wore decals with the initials S.H.E.S. as a

tribute to the school shooting victims at Sandy Hook. … The

Texans will donate $68,800 to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund

after team owner Bob McNair matched the $34,400 raised by a silent

auction Sunday. … Playing in his 137th game, Johnson got his

800th career reception on his first catch, making him the

second-fastest player to reach the milestone. Marvin Harrison did

it in his 131st game. … Johnson has 100 catches this season,

making him the fifth player in NFL history to have at least 100

catches in four or more seasons.

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