The Minnesota Vikings travelled to Houston with their playoff lives on the line (again) and had one of their most complete games of the season. The Vikings won 26-6 over a Texans team that has the best record in the AFC. The defense shut down the Texans' high-powered offense, and the offense and special teams did more than enough to earn the victory. DE Jared Allen said a couple weeks ago that the Vikings were already in playoff mode, and they played like it in Houston. A win Sunday at home over Green Bay and the Vikings will be in the playoffs for real.
The Vikings opened with a scoring drive that featured QB Christian Ponder going 3 of 3 for 62 yards and a score that set the tone for the game and gave the young quarterback confidence. Ponder also made a great decision to scramble for 29 yards and set up the final score that iced the game. RB Adrian Peterson became the focal point of the Texans' defense, which held him to 86 tough yards -- not the numbers that will get him the single-season rushing record, but ones that contributed to the win. The receivers contributed 174 yards, led by rookie WR Jarius Wright's five catches, a drive-extending grab by WR Jerome Simpson, another touchdown from TE Kyle Rudolph and two big catches in traffic by Michael Jenkins. Previous game's grade: B+
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The defense held the No. 3-ranked scoring offense to two field goals and 187 total yards. The unit forced two turnovers (one with Houston just outside the red zone), had four sacks, eight QB hits and a goal-line stand that started at first-and-goal from inside the 1. The defense has had trouble getting off the field on third down, but Sunday it held the Texans to 1 of 11 on third-down conversions. The defense put together its best performance of the season on the road, and it could vault the team into the postseason. Previous game's grade: B+
Special teams: A
After a couple games of subpar performances, the special teams have returned to their game with two great performances in a row. K Blair Walsh made three field goals, including a 56-yarder that tied for the Vikings' longest in team history and set the NFL record for 50-plus-yard field goals in a season (nine). The field goals helped the Vikings extend a four-point lead until the offense could ice the game with a late touchdown. P Chris Kluwe was consistently long with his punts, including one that pinned the Texans on the 1-yard line. Coverage was tight on punts and kickoffs. Previous game's grade: A
The Vikings coaching staff is showing their mettle with a three-game winning streak, including two straight on the road. The defensive game plan stifled one of the top offenses in the league, and, on offense, the coaches put Ponder in position to make the plays necessary to win the game. Coach Leslie Frazier has the team believing in itself at the most important time of the season, and if the Vikings make the playoffs with a win next week, it will be in great part to a coaching staff that held the team together through a season of highs and lows. Previous game's grade: B+