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Vikings lineman Fred Evans had cause to celebrate after sacking Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on third down Sunday. Houstion had first and goal from the 1 a few plays earlier but had to settle for a 33-yard field goal.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Vikings defense renders miscues moot

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • December 24, 2012 - 4:53 AM

HOUSTON - Christian Ponder's one big mistake on Sunday didn't cost the Vikings anything more than 4 measly yards at a point when the league's No. 3 scoring offense was primed for a momentum swing in front of its home crowd.

That, folks, is how good the Vikings played defensively in Sunday's 23-6 victory over the Texans at Reliant Stadium.

Ponder's only turnover came on a strip sack by J.J. Watt with the Vikings leading 16-3 with 9 minutes, 37 seconds left in the third quarter. Houston's Bradie James fell on the ball at the Vikings' 45-yard line, setting off the loudest roar from a fan base that booed its team throughout most of the game.

"That cheer was one of those noises where you go, 'Oh, man, things are ripe for one of those big momentum shifts,' " linebacker Chad Greenway said. "You could feel it. We all knew it. But our mentality around here is so different now.

"We just said, 'Bring it on.' We're not hanging our heads and going, 'Oh, they're going to score a touchdown and be back in the ballgame.' No. Not this time."

On the first play, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub slightly overthrew receiver Andre Johnson on a deep ball down the right sideline.

A stutter step at the line got Johnson a half-step ahead of cornerback Chris Cook, who had spent the previous six weeks on injured reserve. But Cook recovered and was tight enough that he might have affected the arc of the throw.

"I feel me being as tall as I am [6-2] and being so close to him probably caused Schaub to put a little more air under the ball than he usually does," Cook said. "We figured they would try the home run ball on the first play."

The second snap killed the drive. Left tackle Duane Brown was called for holding Jared Allen, giving the Texans a second-and-20 situation at their 45.

"I had been selling the outside [rush] the whole game, so I was able to beat [Brown] inside," Allen said. "I thought I was going to be able to get Schaub right there, but [Brown] got his arm around my waist. I'm glad the ref called it, because last week [at St. Louis] I felt like I got molested and I didn't get a call."

Two plays later, linebacker Erin Henderson dropped running back Ben Tate for a 2-yard gain on a pass on third-and-8. The Texans punted.

"That was big because earlier in the game, they lost a fumble [at the Vikings' 23-yard line] and we go down and get a field goal, but then we fumble and they get no points," Allen said. "That's just the kind of dominant defense that we're playing."

The six points allowed were the fewest by the Vikings since a 24-3 victory over the Falcons at home in the 2007 opener. Not a bad stat when it comes on the road against a Texans team averaging 35.5 points per game.

The Vikings also held the Texans to season lows in total yards (187), rushing yards (34 on 16 carries) and third-down conversions (1-for-11).

They also had a classic goal-line stand late in the third quarter. The Texans had first-and-goal at the 1 but had to settle for a 33-yard field goal when nose tackle Fred Evans dropped Schaub for a 14-yard loss on third down from the 1.

"This," Greenway said, "was as good as I've seen us play defensively in a long, long time. It was a lot of fun."

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