Today's game between the Texans and Vikings was billed as a shootout. And it delivered, although the Texans joined the party a bit late.
But Minnesota is well-versed in these types of games and delivered the final blow as Daunte Culpepper's fifth touchdown of the pass of the game with 7:05 left in overtime lifted the Vikings to a 34-28 win before 70,718 exhausted fans at Reliant Stadium.
Minnesota improves to 3-1. Houston drops to 2-3 with a game at Tennessee next on the docket.
The Texans made an improbable rally from a 21-0 deficit, scoring three touchdowns
in the fourth quarter, the last a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Carr to wide receiver Andre Johnson with 1:53 left in regulation.
Johnson had a monster day, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns -- all career highs. Carr completed 27 of 43 passes for a career-high 372 yards and three touchdowns. But the Texans didn't have an answer for Culpepper, who threw for 396 yards and found wide receiver Marcus Robinson down the seam for a 50-yard touchdown on the game's final play.
"We certainly had a number of opportunities to win this football game," head coach Dom Capers said. "Anytime you lose a game like this, it hits you in the heart and leaves a very empty feeling.
Minnesota dominated the first half, keeping the ball for 20-plus minutes and outgaining Houston 238 to 105 in total yards. But the Texans rallied in the second half behind an offense that eventually racked up 410 total yards and didn't turn the ball over once. Trouble was, the Vikings gained 510 yards and also didn't give the ball away.
The Vikings got into Texans terriotry on their initial drive but linebacker Jason Babin sacked Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper on 3rd and 7 to force a punt.
Running back Domanick Davis started after missing last week's game with an ankle injury and made an immediate impact, catching two passes for 26 yards on the first two snaps. But the Texans stalled just across midfield.
The Vikings got their sea legs on their next drive. Little-known running back Mewelde Moore rushed for 37 yards and Culpepper hit wide receiver Marcus Robinson for a 21-yard gain down to the Texans 3 as the first quarter ended.
Minnesota dominated the first quarter, outgaining the Texans 117-31 in total yards and keeping the ball for nearly 11 minutes.
On 3rd and goal, Culpepper found wide receiver Randy Moss on a slant for Moss' sixth touchdown of the season on just 20 catches. It also marked the 100th consecutive game in which Moss had a reception. The Vikings led 7-0.
Towards the end of the half, the Vikings went on another methodical march into Houston territory. On 3rd and 7 at the Texans 17, Culpepper floated a ball incomplete to Robinson, but cornerback Demarcus Faggins was flagged for pass interference. That put the ball first and goal at the five-yard line.
Three plays later, Culpepper faked a handoff from the shotgun and fired a scoring strike to wide receiver Nate Burleson. Minnesota had a 14-0 lead with 36 seconds left in the half.
The second half didn't start out much better. The Texans went three-and-out as Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams sacked Carr on third down. The Vikings took over at the Texans 49.
On the first snap, Culpepper hit Moss for 29 yards and linebacker Jamie Sharper was flagged for a 15-yard late hit on Culpepper. Suddenly, Minnesota had the ball at the Texans 10 just three minutes into the second half. Two plays later, Culpepper lofted a touchdown pass to Robinson and the Vikings had a 21-0 lead.
The Texans were forced into catch-up mode but finally shoke off the cobwebs a bit. Carr hit tight end Mark Bruener for a 27-yard gain and then connected with wide receiver Jabar Gaffney for 22 yards.
Three plays later, Carr lofted a 36-yarder to wide receiver Andre Johnson, who
made the latest in a series of acrobatic catches. That gave the Texans first and
goal at the Vikings 4.
Three plays later, Johnson amazed again. Carr fired the ball at bit too high but Johnson showcased his leaping ability, snagging the ball for a four-yard touchdown before doing a backflip on his way back to the ground. The Texans were back in it.
"Offensively I think we only had the ball three times in the first half," Johnson said. "We just weren't getting the job done. Coming out in the second half we knew we were getting the ball first and we just wanted to go out and get the score."
Two series later, Carr threaded a needle to wide receiver Derick Armstrong, who made a diving 35-yard catch to the Vikings 19. Minnesota challenged the call but it was upheld.
On the next play, Carr hit Johnson on a crossing route down to the Vikings 4. It was ninth catch for 127 yards, both career highs. Two plays later, Davis scored his third touchdown of the season, a one-yard plunge that cut Minnesota's lead to seven with 11:31 remaining.
The Vikings reached midfield on their ensuing possession but the Texans held and got the ball back at their 21.
But on the first snap, Carr was nailed on his release by former Texan Steve Martin. Tony Banks replaced him for one snap and Carr threw incomplete upon his return, forcing another punt.
On 3rd and 1 from midfield, the Vikings went for the jugular. Culpepper faked the handoff and threw deep to Moss, who waltzed into the end zone to give Minnesota a two-touchdown cushion with 6:49 left.
The Texans got the ball back and Carr converted a 4th and 4 pass to Armstrong for 18 yards to the Vikings 33. His next throw went to Johnson for 13 yards and the Texans were back in the red zone.
Carr connected with Johnson again before diving to the one-yard line on a scramble. But guard Zach Wiegert was called for tripping on third and goal, backing Houston to the 11-yard line. Carr threw incomplete on third down but fired a laser to Armstrong on fourth down. The Texans were still breathing, down again by seven.
Houston's defense stepped up to the plate and held Minnesota, giving the Texans' offense the ball again with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Three plays and 42 yards later, Houston tied up the game at 28 after Carr found Armstrong on strikes of eight and 12 yards to place the Texans at Minnesota's 22. On the next play, Carr lofted it to Johnson, who scored for the second time.
"We're never going to give up," Carr said. "It's just the strength of the character of the guys in the huddle and how they carry themselves. There was never a sign of giving up, never a sign that we can't score 21 or whatever we need to score to come back in the game."
Minnesota won the coin toss to get the ball rolling in overtime. But Houston was able to force the Vikings to punt. Carr led his troops to the Houston 41 but the Texans were stopped short on 3rd and 2, forcing a punt.
Given another chance, the Vikings delivered. Culpepper connected with Robinson on an 11-yarder and Moore took a short pass 20 yards to the Texans 48.
Defensive end Robaire Smith was able to break through the line and sack Culpepper for a two-yard loss, bringing up 3rd and 12. Then the Pro Bowl quarterback put a dagger through the Texans' collective heart, firing a pinpoint strike to Robinson, who turned it into a 50-yard touchdown.
"That's what players do in this league," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "You can't get down if you don't catch a pass or make a play. You have to fight hard and come back. They were confident in him, and they ran the same play, same route, I think. It was the play that won the game for them."