The Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans faced off in a battle of 0-3 teams on Sunday at NRG Stadium, and while the Minnesota offense put on a show again, it took a defensive stop on the last play of the game to escape with a victory.
Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen all had 100-yard performances on the afternoon, and the Vikings’ defense stood up when it had to, allowing the Vikings to walk away with a 31-23 win, avoiding the team’s first 0-4 start since 2011.
The purple got on the board first in this one, thanks to a five-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook following a pair of three-and-outs forced by the Minnesota defense. Dan Bailey connected on the extra point, and the good guys went ahead by a score of 7-0 with about five minutes left in the first quarter.
The Vikings set themselves up nicely towards the end of the first quarter, as Houston’s Andre Carter fumbled on a punt return courtesy of a tackle by Mike Boone, with Dan Chisena recovering the loose ball at the Houston 35-yard line. They turned the turnover into a 31-yard Dan Bailey field goal to extend their lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter.
The Texans followed that up with their best drive of the first half, but they were forced to settle for a 50-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn to cut the Minnesota lead to 10-3 midway through the second quarter.
Minnesota added to their lead on the ensuing drive on Cook’s second rushing touchdown of the day, this one a 7-yard beauty to make the lead 17-3 just after the two-minute warning.
The Texans added a field goal just before the half, a 28-yarder by Fairbairn to make the game 17-6 going into the locker room. The bigger story from that drive, however, was the ejection of Vikings’ safety Harrison Smith on a hit he put on Texans’ tight end Jordan Aikins on a long completion. That meant that the Vikings had to play the second half without their all-world safety.
Houston took advantage of Smith’s absence on their first possession of the second half, scoring their first touchdown on a 24-yard pass from DeShaun Watson to Will Fuller. Fairbairn hit the extra point, and the Minnesota lead was down to 17-13 just over five minutes into the third quarter.
After Dan Bailey missed a 55-yard field goal attempt, the Texans cut the lead to one on Fairbairn’s third field goal, this one a 25-yarder to make it 17-16 with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Minnesota extended the lead on their next possession, courtesy of Kirk Cousins connecting with Adam Thielen on a nine-yard strike to push the lead back to eight at 24-16 just before the end of the third quarter.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Texans’ next possession, the Vikings marched down the field again, with Cousins completing big passes to both Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. After Cook appeared to be injured (though he would later be okay), Alexander Mattison found the end zone for the first time this season, going in from four yards out to extend the Vikings’ lead to 31-16.
The Vikings looked like they had the Texans on the ropes on their next possession, as the Texans were looking at a 4th-and-10 from the Minnesota 24. Watson, however, found a wide open Kenny Stills for a 24-yard strike to put the home team back to within a score a 31-23 with six minutes left in the contest.
After punting the ball away, the game came down to one final play, as the Texans faced a fourth-and-goal from the Minnesota 5-yard line. Watson attempted to find Fuller in the back left corner of the end zone, and the play was initially ruled a touchdown catch. However, after review, it was determined that the ball hit the ground and was instead ruled an incomplete pass. The Vikings took a knee and escaped from NRG Stadium with their first victory of 2020.
The offense was impressive for the second consecutive week, with Dalvin Cook leading the way. Cook rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, taking over the NFL lead in rushing on the season. Alexander Mattison chipped in with 17 yards and a score on seven carries as well.
Not to be outdone, both of the Vikings’ primary receivers went over the 100-yard mark as well. Adam Thielen led the way with 114 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, while rookie Justin Jefferson put up his second straight 100-yard game with 103 yards on four grabs.
The Vikings move to 1-3 on the season, and will take to the road again next week when they battle the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. The Texans fall to 0-4 and will host the Jacksonville Jaguars next weekend at NRG Stadium.
The Minnesota Vikings get their first victory of the 2020 season, besting the Houston Texans on the road by a final score of 31-23. Thank you to everyone that got their coverage of this week’s game right here at The Daily Norseman!