Vikings keep playoff hopes alive with win in Houston
Christian Ponder connected with Kyle Rudolph on a 3-yard scoring strike and the Minnesota defense silenced host Houston to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Ponder had his strongest game in several weeks, completing 16 of 30 passes for 174 yards as the Vikings (9-6) retained one of the two NFC wild-card spots. Minnesota will still need to win next week's season finale in Green Bay and get some help in order to qualify for the postseason.
Toby Gerhart added a 3-yard fourth-quarter TD run and the Vikings held the Texans (12-3) to 187 yards of total offense and 11 first downs en route to their third straight win. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson added 86 yards on the ground, leaving him 102 yards shy of 2,000 for the season and 208 away from breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season record
With Houston leading 3-0 on a Shayne Graham 51-yard field goal, Ponder found Rudolph on a short TD pass to put Minnesota ahead for good with 6:19 remaining in the first quarter. Blair Walsh hit three straight field goals bridging the second and third quarters, and Gerhart extended the lead to 17 with a short TD plunge with 4:44 remaining.
Matt Schaub went 18-for-32 for 178 yards but was held without a touchdown pass for the second time in three weeks.
GAME NOTEBOOK: The Texans still hold the top seed in the AFC but could fall to third if they lose next week in Indianapolis and both New England and Denver win out. ... AFC rushing leader Arian Foster had just 10 carries for 15 yards and lost a fumble before spending the majority of the second half on the bench. The Texans said Foster had an irregular heartbeat but was fine and removed from the game as a precaution. ... Walsh is a perfect 9-for-9 from 50 yards out, an NFL record from that range.