The final preseason game is much more about individual players competing for roster spots than the result.
With their starters all resting and backups playing with jobs on the line a day before final roster cuts, the Texans had several standout performances on Thursday night at Reliant Stadium. They managed to win the game, too.
Trindon Holliday returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown and Justin Forsett had 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Texans finished the preseason with a 3-1 record and without any serious injuries aside from a season-ending one to backup tackle Rashad Butler on Thursday.
"I feel good about (the preseason)," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "This team's ready to start the season because of their efforts throughout the course of the last six weeks, so I was very proud of them."
Texans quarterback John Beck, vying for a roster spot with rookie Case Keenum, had a stellar first half. The sixth-year veteran was 6-of-10 for 149 yards with a passer rating of 137.5, completing an 80-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver DeVier Posey in the second quarter.
"I was very impressed," Kubiak said. "I've been impressed with how he's played in the preseason... He's a guy who went in to tonight battling for a job, and he knew that. He stepped to the plate and did a hell of a job."
The 80-yard touchdown was the first catch of Posey's NFL career. The third-round draft pick from Ohio State caught a quick slant from Beck, lowered his shoulder into a linebacker and eluded two more tackles on his way to the end zone. Beck completed the pass in the face of two defenders.
"First off, that was a great play by the quarterback," Kubiak said. "We got a blitz that we can't account for and John got him the ball to him really quick. (Posey)'s a big-body guy, and he knocked off the safety and the corner at the same time, and it showed his speed."
Holliday scored his third return touchdown of the preseason, a new team record. The 5-6, 169-pound former NCAA sprint champion was replaced by Forsett on returns after his score in the third quarter, a telltale sign that he had all but locked up a spot on the Texans' final 53-man roster.
"I wouldn't say I cemented it," Holliday said. "I'm just going to wait it out and see what happens. The plan was just to come out and just make plays and show the team that I can be a special guy."
Forsett's rushing total broke Arian Foster's team single-game preseason record of 110 yards, set against Dallas in 2010. Forsett broke off a 52-yard run on the second play of the game and scored on runs of five and three yards. The fifth-year pro also covered punts on special teams.
"It's been a while since I've played the whole game in the fourth preseason game, since my rookie year," Forsett said. "It's a different situation. I just want to come out and show that I can still play and contribute to the offense and special teams."
Keenum went 5-of-10 in the second half for 43 yards and a passer rating of 61.7. The undrafted rookie from the University of Houston's longest completion was a 13-yard pass to running back Jonathan Grimes.
"I thought we didn't protect him maybe as well as we protected John," Kubiak said. "But he continues to show us some good stuff. He's just a young player making a conversion from the gun to under center, but he makes good decisions, he's got a good arm, and I think he's got a future in this league, but we got to look at our big picture and see where we're at. I've been pleased; I think he's come a long way. He's making it very hard on me, and that's a good thing."
The Texans allowed the Vikings to rack up 562 yards of offense, including 245 on the ground. Minnesota dominated time of possession 36:18 to 23:42. But the Texans forced two turnovers and had six sacks, led by undrafted rookie outside linebackers D.J. Bryant with two and Delano Johnson with 1.5.
First-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus had a sack in the second quarter, giving him 3.5 in the preseason. Inside linebacker Tim Dobbins had one sack. Outside linebacker Jesse Nading had 0.5.
Inside linebacker Shawn Loiseau, an undrafted rookie from Merrimack College, recovered a muffed punt in Vikings territory in the third quarter, setting up Forsett's second touchdown. Safety Eddie Pleasant, an undrafted rookie from Oregon, intercepted a pass in the third quarter with a great play on the left sideline.
Second-year cornerback Brandon Harris broke up a pass in the flat in Texans territory on fourth-and-one with nine seconds remaining, forcing a turnover on downs that ended the Vikings' last chance.
"What you saw at the end of the game, that was a lot like our training camp," Kubiak said. "That was our young guys out there playing, but it was important to them. Our camp was very competitive, very challenging, probably as good as I've been around."
The Texans will kick off the regular season on Sept. 9 at Reliant Stadium against the Miami Dolphins.