1. He’s no Adrian, but ...
No team is better without Adrian Peterson. But the loss of a great running back doesn’t have to sink a team. Not when it has two backs who complement each other as well as Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata do with the Vikings. McKinnon is the lead back, but Asiata has equal value and is the better blocker. The big fella also proved on Sunday that he’s deceptively swift to the edge as a receiver out of the backfield. On third-and-6 from the Houston 38-yard line, Asiata caught a swing pass left. Texans linebacker John Simon was a step slow recognizing and reacting to the play, which enabled Asiata to gain 23 yards. Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner shifted into hurry-up mode, catching the Texans with 12 defenders on the field, and the Vikings soon scored on Asiata’s 1-yard run to go up 14-0. Asiata had six of the team’s 22 first downs, including two receptions for 43 yards.
2. Rhodes is harsh critic
At least one Purple defender was trying to set the bar a little higher after yet another dominating performance left the Texans with 214 total yards. Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes felt he got a little too grabby on Sunday. The officials agreed with him. They flagged Rhodes three times, but Houston accepted only two of them. Houston trailed 24-0 and didn’t have a first down until Rhodes was called for a 34-yard pass interference penalty at the 6:35 mark of the second quarter. Houston’s next first down didn’t come until Rhodes was called for holding to negate Everson Griffen’s sack on fourth-and-4 four plays later, and Houston eventually ended up with a 38-yard field goal for its first points. “I feel like I was a little too aggressive on some plays,” Rhodes said. “I have to own up to my mistakes. I hurt the team at certain times, but that will be corrected going into the next game.”
3. Tough day for T.J.
It’s a credit to T.J. Clemmings that it took until his third start at left tackle to be noticed in a negative light. His first two starts for the injured Matt Kalil were so smooth, he actually looked better on the less familiar left side than he did at any point last year at his more natural right tackle spot. Sunday was a different story against Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Clemmings was beaten unmercifully on two ugly sacks of Sam Bradford, including one that was inches away from a safety. It could have been three sacks, but Clemmings grabbed Mercilus’ facemask, taking the 15-yard penalty instead. The Vikings entered the game tied for 13th in most penalties with 28. They added nine more for 97 yards. In his first start of the season at right tackle, Jeremiah Sirles had two false starts. The defense had five penalties for 69 yards, while the offense had three penalties and special teams one.
4. Osweiler uncomfortable all day
The Texans handed Brock Osweiler $72 million after only seven career starts at quarterback in Denver. So far, he looks like a guy with a great arm who has made only 12 career starts. He’s pretty good at home (3-0) and beyond awful on the road. The Texans have gone 0-2 while being outscored 58-13 on the road. It wasn’t only the four sacks that were responsible for Osweiler’s 23 incompletions, one interception and season-low 56.1 passer rating. Fear of the Vikings pass rush changed Houston’s approach offensively with shorter drops and quicker throws. Houston’s third possession started at the Vikings 38-yard line. But it ended with a missed 51-yard field goal because Osweiler got too jittery in the pocket, rushed a throw and one-hopped it to an open tight end. “You can see that teams are changing what they like to do when they face us,” defensive tackle Tom Johnson said. “They’re rushing things, which helps us.”
5. Still no turnovers?
We’re five games and 304 snaps into the Vikings’ season and yet the offense still hasn’t turned the ball over. At some point, Sam Bradford will turn the ball over. Right? With 30 more pick-free passes, the quarterback has thrown 125 in a row without an interception in his four games with the Vikings. Going back to last season in Philadelphia, it’s 152 straight. “The fact he’s so smart helps a lot,” Vikings left guard Alex Boone said. “He knows the defenses. He knows where the ball is going. He knows his reads. He’ll get rid of the ball, which frustrates the defense and helps us.” It also takes some good fortune. Texans linebacker John Simon dropped one on Sunday.