Mark Craig's Five Extra Points

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 24, 2012 - 12:07 AM

u22B3 Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson soared over Houston’s Johnathan Joseph (24) and Shiloh Keo for a first-down catch in the fourth quarter.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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1. That sure was a nice 'throwaway' toss

Receiver Jerome Simpson finally made one of those great athletic catches he was supposed to be making all season, but hasn't. Early in the fourth quarter, he leaped high in tight coverage near the left sideline, caught the ball and somehow tapped both feet in bounds for a 17-yard catch on third-and-13. After the game, Ponder revealed just how great that catch actually was. "I want to lie to you and say that I meant to make that throw," he said. "But I was trying to throw it out of bounds and my arm got hit. We were very fortunate." Said Simpson, who caught four passes for 32 yards: "Those are the plays I'm known for making. It feels good to make one."

2. What's a defender to do?

It must be frustrating beyond belief to be a defensive player in today's NFL. Vikings rookie free safety Harrison Smith got another taste of that late in the fourth quarter when he was flagged for roughing the passer. He didn't hit Matt Schaub late. There was no helmet-to-helmet contact. And the hit was in Schaub's chest. "I thought it was a clean hit," Smith said. "I guess that's just how it goes when you play defense in an offense's league. That's how I play. I'm not trying to play dirty or hit anybody illegally. I'm going to play hard. Always." Three snaps later, Smith got a sack and a forced fumble when he ran down backup QB T.J. Yates from behind. "I was mad they called a penalty, so I hit him pretty good," Smith said. "So I'm going to keep coming."

3. Passing on a 58-yard kick

Kicker Blair Walsh tied the Vikings' team record for longest field goal when he made a 56-yarder with ease. But coach Leslie Frazier didn't let him attempt a 58-yarder in the fourth quarter. "I just wanted to make [Houston] have to drive the length of the field," Frazier said. Turns out Frazier made a good call. Punter Chris Kluwe dropped a 39-yarder inside the 5-yard line and Josh Robinson downed it at the 1. "That's just smart coaching," Robinson said. "Knowing that you got a good punter who can consistently put the ball inside the 5-yard line." Houston went three-and-out and the Vikings took the ensuing possession and drove 64 yards for a touchdown.

4. Texans terrible on third down

The Texans converted only one of 11 third downs in part because their average yardage on third down was 7 yards. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub completed four third-down passes, but only one of them went for a first down. Smith, the Vikings free safety, was especially dominant on third down. He had a strip sack that gave the Vikings the ball. He had coverage on an incompletion on third-and-1. And one of his team-high seven tackles was a stop for 2 yards on third-and-3 from the Houston 8.

5. Goal line switch helps big stop

Fred Evans has only three career sacks, but he's got a name for the shimmying, shaking dance he did after dropping Schaub for a 14-yard loss on third-and-goal at the 1. "It's the 'Wobble, Wobble,'" he said. "It's a native Texas dance. I did go to school down here [Texas State]. I said if I was able to get a sack, I would give a shout out to the great state of Texas." On a serious note, linebacker Chad Greenway said defensive coordinator Alan Williams deserved credit for taking the Vikings out of their goal-line defense. "He went back to our base defense, got out of goal line so we could get some extra pressure," Greenway said. "We manned up and said, 'Either they're going to make a play or we're going to make a play.' And Fred made a play."

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