Holding a 14-0 lead, the Minnesota Vikings started the second quarter of play in Houston Texans' territory at the 45-yard line. A couple of runs by Matt Asiata sandwiched around a pass from Sam Bradford to Adam Thielen garnered another first down for the Vikings, and a pass to Jerick McKinnon for 11 yards pushed them down to the Houston 24. The Vikings then faced 3rd-and-7 from the Houston 21-yard line, and Jarius Wright came up big again, catching an 11-yard pass from Bradford to put the Vikings down at the 10. McKinnon then got dropped for a big loss on first down, but a screen pass to Cordarrelle Patterson got the Vikings all the way down to the 1-yard line. The Vikings got stopped on third down, and elected to play it very safe by calling on Blair Walsh rather than going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Walsh connected from 19 yards out, and the Vikings' lead was up to 17-0.
Tyler Ervin returned the kickoff from Blair Walsh to the Houston 21-yard line to set up the Texans' next drive. For the fourth consecutive possession, the Texans went three-and-out, highlighted by what should have been a pick-six for Harrison Smith that he dropped. Shane Lechler came on to punt once again, and Marcus Sherels did it again. He took the punt at his own 20-yard line, avoided a couple of tacklers, and took the ball 80 yards for his second punt return score of the year! Walsh added the extra point to make the score 24-0, and the Vikings were rolling.
The return was the second of the season for Sherels. . .he had one at Carolina as well. . .and the fifth of his career, extending his team record in that category. He's also the first Viking to have two punt return touchdowns in one season. He's also tied Percy Harvin's career record for most return touchdowns. . .Harvin had five kickoff returns for touchdowns, while Sherels has had five punt return scores.
The next kickoff from Walsh went for a touchback, and the Texans started out at their own 25. The Texans finally got a first down. . .thanks to a penalty on Xavier Rhodes while he was guarding DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans got down to a 4th-and-4 from the Minnesota 29, and it appeared that the drive was stopped by a sack of Brock Osweiler by Everson Griffen, but a second penalty on Rhodes. . .this one for illegal contact. . .gave the Texans another first down. They couldn't do much more with it, though, and they called on Nick Novak for a 38-yard field goal attempt. Novak, who missed a field goal in the first quarter, hit this one to put the Texans on the board, cutting the Minnesota lead to 24-3.
Charles Johnson got an opportunity to return the ensuing kickoff, with Cordarrelle Patterson being out with a hip issue. Minnesota started at their own 24-yard line, but couldn't generate any offense, as Whitney Mercilus beat T.J. Clemmings for the second sack of Bradford on the afternoon. Jeff Locke came in to punt again, and the punt was not good, as it only traveled 36 yards to the Houston 46-yard line.
Houston quickly got into Minnesota territory, but then found themselves facing 4th-and-1 from the Minnesota 45-yard line, and chose to line up and go for it again. Griffen got to Osweiler in a hurry. . .because he jumped offsides, giving Houston a free five yards and a first down. Houston then actually earned a first down. . .their first three came via penalties. . .and they found themselves at the Minnesota 27-yard line at the two-minute warning. Osweiler then found tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 15-yard gain down to the Minnesota 12. The drive stalled, however, after three straight incompletions from Osweiler, and the Texans had to settle for another field goal attempt from Novak. He connected from 30 yards out, and the Vikings' lead was cut to 24-6. That's how they went into the locker room for halftime.
The Minnesota defense was dominant in the first half. Houston didn't collect a first down until midway through the second quarter, and of their five first downs, three have come as a result of penalties. Brock Osweiler has been relatively terrible, as he's completed 7-of-20 passes in the first half for just 53 yards. Lamar Miller is the Texans' leading rusher with 19 yards on seven carries, and Fiedorowicz is the Texans' leading receiver with two catches for 24 yards. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller had zero catches between them in the first half.
The Vikings' offense, on the other hand, has been rolling. Sam Bradford has completed 13-of-18 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Adam Thielen is leading the Vikings in receiving with 66 yards on three catches, including the first touchdown of the afternoon. Jerick McKinnon hasn't done much in the run game, with just 29 yards on 12 carries, while Matt Asiata has ten yards and a score on five carries.
At halftime at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings appear to be well on their way to 5-0, as they lead the Houston Texans by a score of 24-6. Come on in and join us for the third quarter of play!