The Houston Texans have spent most of the 2012 season bullying the AFC.
The Minnesota Vikings do not play in the AFC.
Minnesota pushed the Texans around for 60 minutes, dominating both sides of the ball in a convincing 23-6 win.
Despite a pedestrian performance from Adrian Peterson, the Vikings had little problem dispatching the AFC's top squad. Christian Ponder led the way with a touchdown pass and 48 yards rushing to spark the Vikings' offense, while their defense shut down the Texans' attack.
Matt Schaub (18-of-32, 178 yards) was never able to get comfortable and had trouble throwing downfield. Once again, Andre Johnson (seven catches, 97 yards) came up large for the home team, but Houston's lack of a viable second receiver led to another frustrating afternoon.
The Houston offense has been stuck in neutral for the better part of a month, too often settling for field goals rather than touchdowns.
Trailing 16-3 late in the third quarter, their penchant for stalling out in the red zone came back to bite them.
Facing a first-and-goal from the one-yard line, the Texans failed on three plays, culminating in a sack of Schaub. They settled for a field goal to trim the deficit to 10 points but never seriously threatened the rest of the afternoon.
Minnesota controlled both the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage, holding the Texans to 53 yards rushing while racking up 174 yards of their own.
Of greatest concern to the Texans was losing Arian Foster (10 carries, 15 yards) to an irregular heartbeat mid-way through the game. Head coach Gary Kubiak said afterwards,
Arian had an irregular heartbeat. He is doing fine. That’s why we took him out of the game. But he is doing fine. That is something that happened once before in practice. I’m not sure when it happened, but (it was a) precaution.
It’s probably not fair for me to try and explain it to you. I just know that it’s happened before to him at practice. He calms down and he’s fine.
They told me, there was a point where they said he’s OK and I said, ‘No, we’ll let (RB) Ben (Tate) and (RB) Justin (Forsett) take it.' I don’t see any issues here. I know they’re on top of it and he’s feeling fine. But I just wanted you all to know why we made the decision.
Foster simply said, "I’ll be fine. I’ll be OK. It’s a very minor situation, so I’ll be OK."
Without Foster, the Texans couldn't move the ball. Schaub was sacked four times and routinely threw the ball away due to pressure.
Without any significant threat from the Houston offense, the Vikings were content to play keep away by running the ball and grinding the clock.
Houston has now lost two of three games and appears to be scuffling at the wrong time as injuries mount.
The loss cost the Texans a chance to nail down the top overall seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
Now, they need a Week 17 win at division-rival Indianapolis to ensure they won't leave Houston for the playoffs. They have never won a game in Indianapolis in franchise history but did handily beat the Colts in Week 15 at home.
Quotes courtesy of the Houston Texans PR department via direct press release.