In a battle of two winless teams, someone’s got to win… well, unless the Eagles are involved. The Minnesota Vikings broke through for their first win of the season, knocking off the still-winless Houston Texans, 31-23.
‘COOK’-ING UP A TASTY RECIPE
The Vikings broke into the scoring column first on a five-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook. Cook would account for 25 yards on the drive, 14 on the ground and an 11-yard reception.
Later in the first quarter, the Vikings’ special teams unit would come up with a big play of their own when Mike Boone forced a DeAndre Carter fumble on a Texans punt return. Rookie Dan Chisena fell on the ball, and the Vikings were in business on the Texans’ 35-yard line. The drive would stall and a Dan Bailey 31-yard field goal would push the lead to 10-0.
Houston countered with a 10-play, 43-yard drive that ended in a Ka’imi Fairbairn 50-yard field goal. (Seriously, is there any kicker in the NFL who can’t make a 50-yard kick against the Vikings?)
The Vikings responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive that was kept alive on a five-yard quarterback sweep by the nimble Kirk Cousins, and ended on a determined seven-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook.
Houston then took the ball 58 yards, and Fairbairn hit his second field goal of the half, this time from 28 yards out, cutting the lead to 17-6 at the half.
“WATSON, COME HERE; WE NEED YOU”
The Vikings went three-and-out to start the second half, and Texans QB Deshaun Watson took advantage. Watson would complete all four of his passes for 50 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller. Fairbairn’s extra point cut the Vikings lead to 17-13.
After a missed 55-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, Houston would drive to the Vikings’ seven-yard line before Minnesota’s defense stiffened. Fairbairn made his third field goal of the day, a 25-yarder, and the Vikings’ lead was a slim 17-16.
Minnesota would then make a statement drive. Blending the run and pass better than the perfect margarita, Kirk Cousins and co. would drive 75 yards in eight plays, ending with a pretty connection to Adam Thielen for a nine-yard touchdown and a 24-16 lead. Cook would pick up 26 yards on the ground during the drive, and Cousins hit all three of his pass attempts for 51 yards.
ONE LAST STAND
The Vikings would extend the lead to 31-16 on their first possession of the fourth quarter. Cousins would have back-to-back 25-yard completions to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The drive culminated in an Alexander Mattison four-yard touchdown run, his first of the season.
Less than five minutes later, Houston would get a touchdown of their own. On 3rd-and-23, Watson found David Johnson for 13 yards. Then, on 4th-and-10, Kenny Stills got by Vikings safety George Iloka for a 24-yard touchdown reception. Iloka was in the game because Vikings veteran safety Harrison Smith was ejected near the end of the first half for a targeting penalty.
Minnesota would still have a chance to close this one out, but for a case more curious than Benjamin Button, Dalvin Cook was taken out of the game with just over four minutes to play, after a nine-yard run. Alexander Mattison would carry the ball three times for only six yards, and with Houston out of timeouts, Cousins would throw an incomplete pass to Adam Thielen that stopped the clock.
Houston took over on the Vikings’ 24-yard line and moved all the way to the Vikings’ 4-yard line. David Johnson would run for three yards on first down, then was stacked up at the 1 on second down. Houston went shotgun and got a break when Johnson fumbled, then fell right back on it at the 5. On fourth down, Watson targeted Will Fuller and had, what appeared to be, another touchdown pass. The replay showed Fuller clearly dropped the ball as he landed out of bounds, ending the Texans’ comeback bid and securing the victory for Minnesota.
BY THE NUMBERS
Kirk Cousins had a solid performance, throwing for 260 yards and a touchdown while completing 16-of-22 passes. Dalvin Cook had another punishing day running, with a career-high 27 carries and 130 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. The Vikings would have two receivers go over 100 yards, with Adam Thielen tallying 114 yards on eight catches and a touchdown, while Justin Jefferson posted his second-consecutive 100+ yard day, gaining 103 yards on four grabs.
Deshaun Watson was 22-of-33 for 300 yards and two touchdowns. David Johnson led the Texans’ ground game with 63 yards on 16 carries. For the fourth-consecutive week, a receiver would go over 100 yards against Minnesota. This week, it was Will Fuller, who had 108 yards on six catches, including a touchdown.
“IF YOU’RE NOT FIRST…”
Interesting stat: on first down, the Vikings had 19 plays of at least four yards out of 32 first-down plays they ran. Houston had just 11 such plays out of 26.