Dominant defense, efficient offense and another special teams touchdown was on display at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, and it led to a 31-13 victory for the Vikings over the Houston Texans. The win moves the Vikings to 5-0 and sends them into their much-needed bye as the lone undefeated team in the NFC. Here are 10 observations from Sunday's win.
1. Norv keeps finding a way
Head coach Mike Zimmer created a catch phrase that his team has adopted and personified – "Find a Way." It's his way of demanding that his team refuse to accept adversity as a show-stopper. The offense has faced as much adversity as any part of the team so far in 2016, and it continued on Sunday with Stefon Diggs and Andre Smith inactive and then with Brandon Fusco and MyCole Pruitt both forced from the game. Zimmer credited his offensive coaching staff after the game, saying they continue to find a way to get the job done despite injury after injury ravaging the starting lineup. Once again, the Vikings didn't turn the ball over and they'll go into their Week 5 bye with zero turnovers on offense. The Vikings were also 50% on third downs (seven of 14), two of three in the red zone and they started fast with three scoring drives in their first four possessions.
2. Defense dominates, again
At one point, the Vikings defense had held Houston's offense to 0-12 on third downs and they had more penalty yards than Houston's offense had net yards. The Texans were able to pick up yardage and even a late touchdown eventually, but it was far too little way too late. Quarterback Brock Osweiler was sacked four times, hit 13 times and pressured even more. He completed only 19 of his 42 (45.2%) passing attempts for 184 yards, a per-pass average of 4.4 yards. He also threw an interception and was successful in getting the ball to his top two targets – Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins – on just six of 15 attempts. Also, Houston mustered only 59 yards rushing on 14 attempts, making Osweiler pass predictable for much of the game.
3. Bradford keeps rolling
No Diggs, no problem for Bradford. In his fourth game under center for the Vikings, Bradford authored his third game with a passer rating of 100+ and he spread his 22 completions on 30 attempts (73.3%) around to seven different receivers, including a bunch (more on that in a minute) to Adam Thielen, the man who stepped into the starting lineup in Diggs' stead. In four games with the Vikings, Bradford has completed 70.4% of his passes, thrown for 990 yards, 6 touchdowns, and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 109.7.
4. B-Rob gets pass rush back on track
The Vikings defense was held without a sack last week against the Giants, largely because quarterback Eli Manning refused to hold the ball long enough to be sacked. The result was the Giants also forfeited opportunities to throw the ball downfield. The Texans took a different approach, electing instead to try throwing the ball downfield. That didn't work, either. The Vikings took advantage of Houston's aggressiveness and tallied four sacks, including 2.0 from Brian Robison, one of which resulted in a fumble. The constant pressure on Osweiler resulted in more than just the four sacks, as it also make Osweiler look uncomfortable and rushed for most of the afternoon.
5. Through injury, Patterson finds a new way to impact the game
It's easy to see how much Cordarrelle Patterson cares about trying to get onto the field to help his team win. He's made a difference this season as a kickoff returner and as a gunner on the punt team. On Sunday, he found more ways to help. He had yet another tackle on the punt team, but he also had four receptions for 39 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown grab over a defender in perfect position to help give the Vikings a 31-6 lead in the fourth quarter and end any thought of an improbable Texans comeback. Twice on the day Patterson was contact by a defender right after making a catch but then found a way to break the tackle and pick up extra yardage. Patterson also scored his touchdown after he returned to action from a hip injury that caused him to go to the locker room for an examination. Athleticism and versatility have been on display by Patterson for some time, but now he's adding toughness, resiliency and results. It's a beautiful thing.
6. Sherels adds to record that may never be broken
Records are meant to be broken. But some records are much less attainable than others. Cal Ripken, Jr.'s consecutive games played streak comes to mind, as does Paul Krause's career interceptions mark. Maybe Marcus Sherels' Vikings career punt return touchdown record is one to add to the list. Sherels got yet another one on Sunday, the second of the season for him and the fifth of his career. This time Sherels took it back 79 yards for the score, staking the Vikings to a 24-0 lead.
7. Hooked on a Thielen
Catches in the clutch – check. Catches along the sideline – check. Catches in coverage – check. Thielen did it all on Sunday, including tallying his first career 100-yard day. Seeing more opportunities with Diggs sidelined, Thielen ran out with the offense during starting lineups and then ran all over the Houston secondary, to the tune of seven receptions, 127 yards and one touchdown on eight targets. After the game, Zimmer called Thielen the ultimate Viking because of his work ethic, toughness and ability to progress into a better and more productive player over time.
8. Third-down performances key for Vikings defense, offense
It's no coincidence that the lopsided nature of the final scorer was mirrored by the equally lopsided nature of Vikings and Texans performance on third downs. The Vikings converted seven of their 14 tries, where Bradford was six of eight for 89 yards. Jarius Wright, active for the game with Diggs out of action, was the Vikings leading receiver on third downs with three grabs for 32 yards. The Texans, meanwhile, were dominated by the Vikings defense on third downs. They converted zero of their first 12 attempts and had a meaningless conversion late in the game.
View images as the Vikings take on the Houston Texans at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
9. Vikings are lone undefeated NFL team and are heading into their bye
The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, meaning the Vikings victory over Houston leaves them as the only undefeated team in the NFC. When the Denver Brocos lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the afternoon games, the Vikings became the only undefeated team in the NFL. It will remain that way even after next week because the Vikings are on bye. The Vikings next opponent is the aforementioned Eagles and the game will be played in Philadelphia. The Eagles will play at the Washington Redskins next week before welcome the Vikings on October 23.
10. Current Vikings welcome home distinguished alumni in winning fashion
The current Vikings won their fifth game in as many tries this season in front of many players who helped the franchise along to many wins in the past. At halftime of Sunday's game, the Vikings held a re-induction ceremony for their Ring of Honor to establish the decades-long tradition in their new home. There were 12 of 21 members on hand to take in the festivities, including former head coach Bud Grant and fan-favorite Cris Carter.