Linebacker DeMeco Ryans was the star of the Texans' defense, which also received contributions from Xavier Adibi (pictured).
It looked like another long night for the uncertain Texans' defense after Minnesota's Adrian Peterson ran 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game.
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans would have none of it. He and every Texans fan in Reliant Stadium remembered last week's embarrassing performance against the New Orleans Saints.
Ryans jerked the defense up by the nape of the neck and refused another disappointing performance. He had 13 tackles, two for losses, and a sack in the first half. He finished with 16 tackles, 12 unassisted.
They didn't make him defensive captain for nothing.
"That play doesn't worry me because it was a simple problem that can be fixed immediately," Ryans said. "We bounced back and held them in the running game."
Ryans got the defense together on the sidelines after Peterson's startling opening shot.
"I told the guys to just do their jobs and don't try to make a play that's not your play," Ryans said. "Let the plays come to you. Step up, be a man, do your job and we're going to be all right. Put that play behind us and move forward."
That's exactly what the first-team defense did. It awoke and the rest of the half was almost even, with the Vikings leading 17-10 at the half. That was the final score, leaving the Texans in a much better mood than a week ago.
Linebacker Zac Diles made four tackles and tried to follow Ryans' lead in boosting the defense.
"We knew we had to have a different mind game this week," Diles said. "We left last week with a bad taste in our mouthes. We gave up a lot of yardage on our No. 1 defense last week. We knew today we had to go set the tone. We gave up that big play early, but after that we kind of settled down and got into a groove."
And Ryans really stepped up, huh, Zac?
"You think?" Diles said, laughing. "DeMeco definitely showed up today. DeMeco is fired up before every game. We feed off his energy. He's the captain of the defense. We go how DeMeco goes."
Ryans was all over the field. He pinned a two-yard loss on Peterson in Minnesota's second drive, and Mario Williams got a six-yard sack on Brett Favre on third down to stop the drive.
In the second quarter, Ryans sacked Favre and nailed Chester Taylor on third down, forcing another punt.
"We all played well," Williams said. "We still didn't tackle well. We missed some tackles that we should have gotten them down the first couple of licks and didn't."
Williams underscored Ryans' sideline speech to stay in position.
"Last week, I said as long as we are in our gaps, we'll be all right," Williams said. "That one play we were not in our gaps and that's what happens. It was wide open. We looked at it on paper and it was wide open. We have great defenses called as long as we are in our gaps."
Rookie defensive end Connor Barwin learned quickly to follow Ryans.
"It's fun watching him play," Barwin said. "He's been vocal all week. He's taken his leadership to a new level. It was clear everyone had to play better this week."
Ryans led by example, as well as shouting commands.
"I had a good feeling out there," Ryans said. "I felt good running around. It seemed like I was coming up on every play. It was a good feeling that I was making plays.
"We definitely took a punch in the mouth on the first play and the guys responded well. We came back and played well. That play could have broken our back, but we responded. We don't need or want those type of plays to wake us up. We have to come out and pay attention to detail earlier when we first step onto the field."
Coach Gary Kubiak wasn't pleased with the opening play.
"We could pass the buck on a lot of places," Kubiak said. "But, the bottom line is, we made the same mistake on the backside of the play and how we insert on the play from a defensive end and corner standpoint. It was disappointing but they responded after that. You take away that big run and you are probably sitting here feeling a lot better about how we played the run, but the bottom line is they still made it."
Still, the improvement left the defense with something to build on.
"I was happy the way we bounced back after that first play," defensive tackle Shaun Cody said. "Sometimes, you can let that first play bug you and we didn't do that. We came back and put together a good defensive effort after that. We can't let that first play happen. We have to be sound, especially if it's a back like that who can take it to the house every time."
Kubiak clearly thought Ryans was the highlight of the game.
"He's a leader and he's going to do his part and he lets them know that and he lets them know it on the field, not by talking," Kubiak said. "He's been exceptional throughout camp."
Getting out of position isn't good against any team, but when you're facing the NFL's leading rusher last year, it can be fatal.
"We got out of a gap and when you give Adrian Peterson the ability to hit a seam like that, he has the ability to take it to the house and that's what he did," Ryans said.
It's what the Texans did after Peterson's big play that pleased Ryans the most.
"It tells me we've gotten better since the Saints game."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.