Vikings vs. Texans: Defense, Ponder Step Up as the Vikings Shock the Texans

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 23: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings rushes as Danieal Manning #38 of the Houston Texans looks to make the tackle at Reliant Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The script was for Adrian Peterson to run the ball all day and hopefully lead the Minnesota Vikings to a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The reality was very different, as Christian Ponder was the guy making the difference on offense in a huge 23-6 win, on the road, over the Houston Texans.

The stats aren't huge or anything, but Ponder played one of his better games all season and certainly his best game in the last two months.

Ponder avoided mistakes and, while he regressed for a bit in the second half, made very smart decisions. The offensive line, normally better at run blocking than pass blocking, did a great job of keeping defensive player of the year front-runner J.J. Watt in check, limiting him (and the Texans as a whole) to just one sack.

The Texans looked disengaged at times on both offense and defense, and the Vikings made sure to take advantage of it.

Peterson had an "off" day, with just 86 yards on a whopping 25 carries as the Texans focused on him all day.

This just let Ponder find rookie Jarius Wright, tight end Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson for big games.

The defense also had a huge day, bottling up Arian Foster (who left mid-game with an irregular heartbeat) and kept the Texans out of the end zone.

For a defense which struggled to tackle well and wrap up quarterbacks and running backs alike in the backfield, the four sacks were a big step forward. They assaulted Matt Schaub and kept him from getting anything going. Rookie Harrison Smith was tremendous in the secondary, showing great instincts, hard hitting (which caused a fumble) and a nose for the football.

I love Matt Kalil, but Smith has really shown some excellent cause to think he could be the Vikings' rookie of the year.

The Vikings remain alive for the playoffs, and they did it in a way I didn't expect.

I figured it would be all Adrian Peterson and a solid defensive effort. I was half right.

But I've never been happier to be wrong on a game prediction.

 

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Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.

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