Upset of Houston leaves Vikings in control of playoff destiny

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 24, 2012 - 5:43 AM

A Vikings team once believed to be a rebuilding project at best is now a real postseason threat.

HOUSTON - Vikings coach Leslie Frazier knows all that's ahead this week, most notably a gigantic regular-season finale at Mall of America Field against the rival Packers with a playoff berth on the line.

"If you were going to write a script," Frazier said, "this is the way you'd want it to be done."

Rebuilding year? Maybe to the outside world.

But now the surging Vikings are 9-6 and in the middle of a wild-card battle royale.

One final weekend remains in the quest to gain admittance into the exclusive postseason bracket, and if the Vikings beat the Packers, they will make the postseason.

Still, in a dark and quiet interview room below Reliant Stadium, Frazier did not want to fast-forward too quickly, still too enraptured by his team's 23-6 destruction of the Texans to give too much thought to next week's win-and-advance showdown with Green Bay.

"We'll deal with that one after 24 hours of jubilation," Frazier insisted. "I don't want to think too far ahead. I want to bask in the glory of this win on the road."

Who could blame the usually tranquil coach for wanting to bounce through the roof? Throughout Sunday afternoon his hungry Vikings delivered so many energizing moments.

There was the 78-yard touchdown march on the first possession, a drive on which Christian Ponder completed all three of his passes for 62 yards, including a 3-yard score to Kyle Rudolph.

Not bad for a newly married quarterback who could have been flustered by a feisty Texans defense. Instead, Ponder (16-for-30, 174 yards, 48 rushing yards) appeared totally in control much of the day.

"I think not being single has been a plus for him," Frazier joked about his newly married quarterback.

More significantly, Frazier's defense locked with its most dominant effort this season. It wasn't just that the Vikings held Houston to 187 yards and six points -- 22 below its season average -- it's that they played smart, fast and ultra-physical.

There were fumbles forced by Jasper Brinkley and Harrison Smith with recoveries by A.J. Jefferson and Everson Griffen. And there was impressive aggression and discipline used to stifle Houston's zone running attack.

Arian Foster, the AFC's leading rusher coming into the day, managed 15 yards on 10 carries.

"There was a focus on being physical," Brinkley said. "And you have to be hungry. Everybody took the challenge. The D-line got their penetration up front and didn't get reach. And that's the way to shut that zone scheme off."

Still, arguably no play was more important than Fred Evans' third-down sack of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub with a minute left in the third quarter. Houston had driven to the Vikings 1, just missing out on a touchdown when Smith tackled Kevin Walter an instant before he could extend the ball across the goal line. With a quicker reach, Houston could have closed to within 16-13.

Instead, the Vikings dug in on three consecutive goal-to-go plays from the 1, with Evans taking advantage of Kevin Williams' inside push and knifing in to take down Schaub.

That stop forced a field goal.

"I wrapped around, our right end got up the field and the left end came underneath," Evans explained. "When I saw their penetration, I pushed through and was right there to get the sack."

And Evans' impromptu celebration?

"Just a native Texas dance called 'the Wobble.' You know one thing about it, I'm a good dancer," he said. "Provides that extra incentive to get there so you can have a little fun."

The Vikings are all having fun right now.

Somehow on a day in which Adrian Peterson was stopped for no gain or a loss on 14 of 25 rushes, the Vikings won going away. With 86 yards, Peterson's streak of eight consecutive 100-yard games ended. But did it really matter with the attention he attracted finally resulting in huge windows of opportunity for others?

Take, for example, the 32-yard catch Michael Jenkins made to jump-start the opening TD drive, breaking wide open across the middle and making a routine backyard catch in stride. Or the winding 29-yard run Ponder delivered late, looking like a trespassing fan trying to steer away from stadium security.

"I ran like 100 yards to get those 29 yards," the quarterback joked.

Maybe so. But that scamper aided the final touchdown drive. Ponder also stamped the perfect caption on Sunday's masterpiece: "We're not done yet."

Nope. One final game remains with a chance to push a surprising 2012 surge into 2013. And the Vikings relish having that opportunity.

"We've known for a while what we have inside this locker room," Brinkley said. "It's a bunch of guys who aren't scared to face up and answer the challenge."

Dan Wiederer • dan.wiederer@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Poll: Grade the Vikings special teams

    Sun. Dec. 23, 2012

  • Game replay: Vikings 23, Houston 7

    Mon. Dec. 24, 2012

    PLAY OF THE GAMESACK DANCEScore: Vikings led 16-3, third quarter, 1:07 remaining.Situation: Houston had third-and-goal at the Vikings 1-yard line.The...

  • Vikings-Houston game balls

    Sun. Dec. 23, 2012

    HARRISON SMITH, Vikings safetyRookie led the team with seven unassisted tackles. Had a sack, forced fumble and a near-interception.BLAIR WALSH,...

  • Vikings' next opponent: Green Bay

    Sun. Dec. 23, 2012

    The NFC North champion Packers have a chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye with a victory over the Vikings, so probably won't be resting key players.

  • Texans quarterback Matt Schaub ducked for cover but cornerback Antoine Winfield...

  • VIKINGS 23, HOUSTON 6

    Next week: vs. Green Bay

    Note: The start of the Packers-Vikings game Sunday at the Metrodome has been changed from noon to 3:25 p.m. by the NFL. The game will be televised on Ch. 9.

    VIKINGS PLAYOFF SCENARIOS

    • The Vikings will make the playoffs if they beat the Packers this Sunday.

    • The Vikings can also make the playoffs, with a loss, if the Giants, Cowboys and Bears also lose.

    • The Giants play host to Philadelphia, the Cowboys play at Washington, and the Bears play at Detroit.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Baltimore 2
Philadelphia 6 Top 8th Inning
NY Mets 2
Miami 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 0 Top 7th Inning
Tampa Bay 7
Cleveland 1 Top 7th Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 5 Bottom 7th Inning
Chicago WSox 0
Texas 0 Bottom 8th Inning
Houston 2
Colorado 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Arizona 0
Chicago Cubs 1 Bottom 4th Inning
St. Louis 1
Los Angeles 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
San Diego 1
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
San Francisco 0
Oakland 0 Top 2nd Inning
LA Angels 0
Washington 2 Top 2nd Inning
Seattle 0
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 4th Qtr 5:20
(23) North Carolina 49
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 3 3rd Qtr 9:46
(4) Oklahoma 38
Stephen F Austin 10 3rd Qtr 7:41
(20) Kansas State 41
Fresno State 7 3rd Qtr
(15) USC 31
Southern Miss 0 3rd Qtr
Miss State 28
Texas-El Paso 24 2nd Qtr 0:13
New Mexico 7
North Texas 0 3rd Qtr
Texas 21
(1) Florida State 17 2nd Qtr 3:48
Oklahoma State 7
(14) Wisconsin 7 1st Qtr 8:59
(13) LSU 0
Idaho 0 Delayed
Florida 0
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 2nd Half 5:00
Montreal 1
FC Dallas 0 2nd Half
Chicago 0
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close