The Texans had one of their worst offensive performances in years on Sunday, putting their hopes to clinch home-field advantage in the AFC on hold in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Reliant Stadium.
In a lackluster 23-6 loss to the Vikings (9-6), the Texans (12-3) did not score a touchdown for the first time since October 2006. They had just 187 yards, their lowest total since opening day in 2009. They were 1-of-11 (nine percent) on third down and 0-of-1 in the red zone. Boos echoed throughoyt Reliant Stadium throughout the game, getting progressively louder from the home crowd with each stalled drive and miscue.
"Obviously, we didn't play well," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. "I think we battled defensively. Offensively, we probably played as bad as we've played. I take full responsibility for that. It's a huge, huge disappointment, one that we've got to get over real quick."
The Texans can still clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC if they beat the Indianapolis Colts (10-5), who are locked into the No. 5 seed after winning on Sunday, next Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. If they don't, they aren't even assured of a first-round bye.
"I don't think there's (anything) that we're lacking," Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. "We've got the talent to do it. We've got the players to do it. We just need fire. We've got to find that somehow, and us leaders (have) got to find a way to motivate that fire throughout the whole team."
The Texans held league-leading rusher Adrian Peterson in check, limiting him to 86 yards on 25 carries (3.4 average). But Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was 16-of-30 for 174 yards and a touchdown. He also had 48 rushing yards, 14 more than the Texans as a team. The Vikings were 9-of-18 (50 percent) on third down.
"You've got to bring an intensity that a team is unwilling to match and not get really caught up in what's going on on the outside," inside linebacker Bradie James said. "Our record is what it is, but we have to play better, and we have to show up collectively, all together, and that's really the bottom line."
The Texans took a 3-0 lead on the game's first drive with a 51-yard field goal by Shayne Graham. They picked up just one first down on their next five possessions, totaling 22 yards. They didn't score again until a 33-yard field goal by Graham in the final minute of the third quarter after the Vikings had reeled off 16 unanswered points.
"We just didn't make no plays," said wide receiver Andre Johnson, one of the Texans' few bright spots with seven catches for 97 yards. "We played horrible on offense. That's pretty much it."
Ponder put the Vikings up for good on their first drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph. He was 3-of-3 for 62 yards on the drive, which started with a false start penalty followed by a 20-yard run by Peterson.
"The way that we came out maybe was more shocking than anything," Texans safety Danieal Manning said. "The first play they had on offense and (Peterson) popped one. That, that right there lets you know that we were pretty much kind of (playing) on our heels."
The Texans drove into Vikings territory early in the second quarter, but Foster lost a fumble at the 23-yard line to quash a potential scoring drive. Twelve plays and 41 yards later, the Vikings took a 10-3 lead on a 56-yard field goal by rookie kicker Blair Walsh.
After two more three-and-outs by the Texans, the Vikings took a 13-3 halftime lead with 0:41 left in the second quarter on a 41-yard field goal by Walsh.
The third quarter started with a nine-play, 52-yard drive by the Vikings that ended with a 39-yard Walsh field goal. Ponder completed a 15-yard pass to receiver Jarius Wright on third-and-10 near midfield on the drive, a play that was compounded by a 15-yard penalty on linebacker Whitney Mercilus for roughing the passer.
The Texans went three-and-out again on their next drive. Defensive end J.J. Watt sacked Ponder on the Vikings' next play, giving him 20.5 sacks on the season, and forced a fumble that Bradie James recovered at the Minnesota 45. But the Texans were unable to capitalize on the turnover and had to punt after a three-play, four-yard drive.
On their next series, the Texans had first-and-goal at the one-yard line after a 12-yard pass over the middle from Schaub to wide receiver Kevin Walter. Their next three plays were an incomplete pass, a run for no gain by Ben Tate and a sack for a loss of 14 yards. They settled for a 33-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the third quarter and would not get past midfield after that.
The Vikings put the game out of reach with a three-yard touchdown run by backup running back Toby Gerhart with 4:49 remaining, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive. The Texans put in backup quarterback T.J. Yates on their next drive, and Yates was sacked from the blindside and lost a fumble on his second play.
Schaub finished the game 18-of-32 (56.3 percent) for 178 yards with a 72.1 passer rating. He was sacked three times. The Texans got into Vikings territory just four times and ran just 18 of their 53 plays on Minnesota's side of the field.
"We didn't execute as a group," Schaub said. "As a quarterback, I take responsibility for that… All the way around, start to finish, we just were not good. We'll come back in Wednesday morning and get ready to go, and I have no doubt that we're gonna do that."