MINNEAPOLIS – With two days until final roster cuts, the Texans got a long look at their backups in their preseason finale on Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
They lost 28-0 at Mall of America Field to finish the preseason 3-1, but the result of the game was secondary. The Texans now have less than 48 hours to cut their roster from 80 to 53 players by Saturday at 5 p.m. CT.
"It's been a good training camp, and we've got a lot of film to go look at on the plane," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "These guys have got a lot of tough decisions to make, but we did give everybody a good chance to play, so that is the most important (thing)."
Backup quarterback Matt Leinart had his best performance of the preseason with the starters for both teams sitting out. He completed 13-of-16 passes for 145 yards in the first half for a 104.4 passer rating.
Tight end Garrett Graham, Leinart's favorite target on the night, finished with a game-high six catches for 71 yards. Newly-signed wide receiver Bryant Johnson had three catches for 64 yards. Running back Chris Ogbonnaya played for most of the game and had 14 carries for 62 yards (4.4 average) and a 10-yard catch.
The Texans had 322 total yards, only 10 less than the Vikings, but were done in by two turnovers and 10 penalties for 99 yards.
"We played hard, we just played pretty sloppy," Kubiak said. "We turned the ball over on offense and had 100 yards in penalties. We obviously lost contain on defense. When those things are happening, you're not going to win in this league."
Rookie linebacker Bryan Braman sacked Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder on the first drive of the game. Later in the first quarter, Leinart moved the Texans 76 yards in nine plays, but the drive ended with a punt at the Minnesota 38-yard line.
After a 16-yard punt return by Trindon Holliday in the second quarter, the Texans advanced to midfield before Leinart and Ogbonnaya fumbled on consecutive plays, leading to a punt.
The Texans consistently flushed Ponder out of the pocket but were unable to sack him. The rookie first-round pick from Florida State was 10-of-17 for 83 yards and ran for 61 yards on eight carries, including an 11-yard scramble that set up the Vikings' first score. Tight end Kyle Rudolph caught a five-yard touchdown pass to put Minnesota up 7-0 with 6:25 left in the second quarter.
After two punts, Houston got the ball back on its own 10-yard line with 2:06 left in the half. Leinart ran the two-minute drill to perfection, completing 7-of-7 passes for 74 yards to get to the Vikings' 24-yard line. That set up Neil Rackers for a 42-yard field goal attempt with five seconds left, but he missed it off the left upright.
Ogbonnaya ran for 28 yards on the Texans' first play of the third quarter, but it was called off by a holding penalty on Cody Wallace. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates then completed passes of 15 yards to Dorin Dickerson and 20 yards to Graham. Three plays later, Yates lost a fumble near midfield after being sacked.
The Vikings capitalized on the short field with a six-play scoring drive that was aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty on Tim Jamison. Running back Alexander Robinson scored on a four-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 with 10:19 left in the third quarter.
Yates started the next drive with a 21-yard pass to Johnson. Ogbonnaya took off on a 38-yard run two plays later only to have it once again negated by a holding penalty on Wallace. Yates was sacked for a nine-yard loss two plays later to force a punt.
Vikings cornerback Brandon Burton picked off Yates on a deep pass near midfield on the Texans' next drive. The Vikings again scored off the turnover, this time on a seven-yard touchdown run by Caleb King early in the fourth quarter.
The Texans got past midfield on two more drives but couldn't get any points. On the first drive, Ogbonnaya was stuffed for a three-yard loss on third-and-two at the Minnesota 48. On the second, rookie wide receiver Jeff Maehl dropped a pass on fourth-and-three from the 46.
The Vikings scored their final touchdown on a two-yard run by King on fourth-and-goal with 57 seconds left. Running back Javarris Williams ran for 38 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive, but the Texans were content to let the clock run out and end the game.
Fortunately, the Texans came out of the game with no major injuries.
"We're very lucky," Kubiak said. "Tonight we got out healthy... We should be full go when we open up next week."