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Takeaways, Protecting Football Central Parts of Vikings Win Streak

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The Vikings offense has managed considerable personnel changeover because of injuries this season, but is yet to commit a turnover through four games.

Minnesota is off to its first 4-0 start since 2009 and has won seven straight regular-season games for the first time since a run of nine in a row from 2002-03.

The Vikings are plus-15 in turnover ratio since defeating the Bears in Week 15 of the 2015 season, with 11 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries, compared to suffering one interception and losing two fumbles. Minnesota has recorded at least one interception during each game of this streak.

This season, the Vikings lead the NFL with 11 takeaways and are the only team in the league that is entering Week 5 at plus-10 in turnover margin.

"We hope it keeps going," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "Houston's good at taking the ball away so we're going to have to be diligent about it again this week." 

Houston (3-1), which will visit Minnesota for the second time ever on Sunday, is minus-3 in turnover margin with eight giveaways and five takeaways. The Texans are the only team with a turnover margin of minus-three or more and a winning record through the first quarter of the season.

Minnesota, Philadelphia (3-0), Dallas (3-1) and New England (3-1) are the only teams that are entering Week 5 without suffering an interception.

Sam Bradford, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on Sept. 3 after the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for all of 2016, has not thrown an interception in 122 attempts, including all 95 since arriving in Minnesota.

It is the second-longest unblemished streak of Bradford's career. During his rookie 2010 season in St. Louis, Bradford attempted 169 passes in a row without an interception. That streak spanned a total of six games, including four games started and finished without an interception.

Bradford has shown impressive accuracy on multiple types of throws, completing 66 of his passes with the Vikings (69.5 percent). He's also been helped a time or two by a receiving target knocking a slightly errant pass away from a defender. Charles Johnson did that once early against the Giants.

As Bradford has worked to catch up on the Vikings offense, he's noticed a commitment to protecting the football.

"Obviously, I wasn't here for the offseason and training camp, but in the time that I've been here, I think our coaches have done a great job of just stressing ball security," Bradford said. "It's something that we work on every day in practice. It's brought up every day in meetings. I think guys are away of it, and I think guys have done a really good job of protecting the ball in traffic, putting two hands on it when they feel there's a threat.

"Part of it is being fortunate, being lucky, but I think for the most part, guys have just done a really good job of protecting the football," Bradford added.

In addition to Bridgewater, the Vikings also have had to replace running back Adrian Peterson and left tackle Matt Kalil.

Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata are teaming up to step in for the three-time rushing champ, and T.J. Clemmings has started the past two games for Kalil. Jeremiah Sirles stepped in for left guard Alex Boone at Carolina and at right tackle for Andre Smith against New York.

McKinnon, who is in his third pro season, is yet to put the football on the ground on a total of 256 career touches (202 carries and 54 receptions).

Asiata, who is in his fifth season, has fumbled just two times out of 335 touches (262 rushes and 73 receptions).

Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler has thrown six interceptions in his first four starts and 146 attempts with Houston. Osweiler signed as a free agent this offseason after spending his first four seasons as a backup in Denver. He started seven games in place of Peyton Manning last season, completing 170 of 275 passes for 1,967 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Asked by Twin Cities media members about his play so far in Houston, Osweiler said there's been "some good, some bad, some ugly, some indifferent, some high notes, some low notes."

"We've been across the board," Osweiler said. "Personally, when I look at my play, the one thing I would like to do moving forward into this next quarter of the season and primarily starting this Sunday, is being more consistent with my play and protecting the ball. I think we have a tremendous football team down here in Houston, we have a great offense, and I think if I can do my job at a high level and execute at a high level at a more consistent note and protect the football then we'll be OK."

Shared load

McKinnon rushed 18 of the Vikings 33 total attempts and netted 85 yards on Monday against the Giants. Asiata netted six yards on six attempts but also converted a key third down with a catch during the Vikings final scoring drive.

Zimmer said the Vikings will continue trying to share the load between the two backs.

"We have to always continue to get Matt involved," Zimmer said. "I think it's good for Jerick. There was a couple times where he got tired in the ball game. I think for longevity in this season and everything else, it's a good mix."    

Zimmer said "some" of the offense changed when Minnesota adjusted to replace Peterson.

"We try to take advantage of everybody's strengths if we can," Zimmer said. "So we'll continue to do that."

New additions

Kyle Rudolph celebrated the arrival of twin daughters with his wife, Jordan.

Zimmer was asked about the tight end having twins in the Twin Cities.

"He said they're good and mom is good so, I'm good," Zimmer said.    

Asked about the convenient timing of the births, Zimmer joked, "Yeah everything has been nice and smooth this year."

View images from the Wednesday, Oct. 5 practice at Winter Park.

Injury reports

The first injury report of the week has been released:

For the Vikings: Rudolph (rib), Andre Smith (elbow), Rhett Ellison (knee), Stefon Diggs (groin), David Morgan (knee) and Sharrif Floyd (knee) did not participate. Anthony Barr (wrist), Xavier Rhodes (knee) and Sirles (ankle) fully participated.

For the Texans: TE Stephen Anderson (hamstring) and RB Jonathan Grimes (ankle) did not participate.  G Oday Aboushi (toe), T Duane Brown (knee), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (knee), CB Kareem Jackson (hamstring), WR Braxton Miller (hamstring), T Derek Newton (knee) were limited. LB Brian Cushing (knee) and CB Charles James (hand) fully participated.

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