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12/23/2012 9:40 PM EST
Vikings deny Texans home-field playoff advantage
MINNESOTA 23, HOUSTON 6

By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- Adrian Peterson doesn't need to set records to
keep the Minnesota Vikings in the playoff race.



Peterson rushed for 86 yards, falling far short of the
2,000-yard mark, yet helped the Vikings' postseason chances with
a 23-6 upset of the Texans on Sunday. Christian Ponder threw a
touchdown pass, Toby Gerhart added a score and Blair Walsh
kicked three field goals as the Vikings (9-6) won their third
straight.



The win raises the stakes for the Vikings, who host Green Bay
next Sunday in the regular-season finale.



"We obviously have a big one next week, and if we don't win that
one, this one doesn't mean anything," Ponder said. "Our No. 1
goal is to make the playoffs."



The loss kept the Texans (12-3) from clinching home-field
advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They could still secure a
first-round bye if Denver loses later Sunday, and would claim
home-field advantage with a win next week at Indianapolis.



"Very disappointing because we had a chance to line up here and
get something done today," coach Gary Kubiak said. "That doesn't
mean we still can't get it done. That's the most important
thing."



Peterson had his lowest rushing total since getting 79 yards on
Oct. 14 in a loss at Washington, breaking a streak of eight
100-yard games. Peterson, who is from Palestine, Texas, had
more than 100 family and friends at the game.



"We knew they were going to focus on the run, which is OK,"
Peterson said of the Texans. "It felt good to see other guys get
involved and us continue to move the ball down and score some
points."



He has 1,898 this season and needs 208 yards to break the NFL
single-season rushing record held by Eric Dickerson. Minnesota
coach Leslie Frazier said he took Peterson out late as a
precaution because he has a sore abdomen.



"I'll get some rest and be ready to get a W and break that
record," Peterson said.



The Vikings took a 10-3 lead when Walsh kicked a 56-yard field
goal. The kick gave Walsh, a rookie, the NFL record with nine
field goals of 50 yards or longer this season.



The Texans failed to score a touchdown for the first time since
2006.



"We didn't play well," Kubiak said. "I think we battled
defensively, but offensively we probably played as bad as we've
played. I take full responsibility for that. It's a huge, huge
disappointment. We've got to get over it really quick."



J.J. Watt had a sack to leave him with 20 1/2 this season.



Houston got within 10 points before Gerhart's 3-yard run
extended the lead to 23-6 with about five minutes left in the
fourth quarter. That drive was helped by a 29-yard run by
Ponder.



Ponder, who got married on Monday, was 16 of 30 for 174 yards to
help the Vikings pile up 345 yards. He finished with seven
rushes for 48 yards - 14 more yards rushing than the Texans had.



"Christian had a terrific day throughout, playing with a lot of
poise, a lot of control - he did all the things we needed,"
Frazier said. "But it was all set up by our run game."



Arian Foster had 10 rushes for 15 yards before leaving with
about nine minutes left in the third quarter with an irregular
heartbeat. Kubiak said he is OK, but he was taken out as a
precaution.



"I'll be fine," he said. "I'll be OK. It's a very minor
situation."



Ben Tate took over and didn't fare much better with four carries
for 17 yards.



The Texans were foiled by their inability to convert third
downs, going 1 of 11. Quarterback Matt Schaub went 18 of 32 for
178 yards.



Houston got to the Minnesota 1 with a 12-yard reception by Kevin
Walter late in the third quarter. Then came an incomplete pass
followed by a run for no gain by Tate. Schaub was sacked by Fred
Evans for a loss of 14 yards to make the Texans settle for a
33-yard field to cut the lead to 16-6.



Houston had to punt on its first possession of the third
quarter, but got the ball right back when Watt sacked Ponder and
forced a fumble. Bradie James recovered, but the Texans had to
punt again.



The Vikings extended their lead to 16-3 when Walsh made a
39-yard field goal on the first drive of the second half. That
series was helped when Ponder found Jarius Wright on a 15-yard
reception, and the Vikings got 15 more yards when Whitney
Mercilus was flagged for unnecessary roughness on Ponder.



Houston was on the Minnesota 28 early in the second quarter when
Jasper Brinkley forced Foster's fumble, which was recovered by
A.J. Jefferson.



A 41-yard field goal by Walsh left Minnesota up 13-3 at
halftime.



Peterson ran for 20 yards to get Minnesota's offense going. The
Vikings took a 7-3 lead when Kyle Rudolph grabbed a 3-yard
touchdown reception. Rudolph also had a 27-yard catch that
drive.



Houston's Andre Johnson had seven receptions for 97 yards.



NOTES: The Texans wore decals with the initials S.H.E.S. as a
tribute to the school shooting victims at Sandy Hook. ...
Playing in his 137th game, Johnson got his 800th career
reception on his first catch, making him the second-fastest
player to reach the milestone. Marvin Harrison did it in his
131st game. ... Johnson has 100 catches this season, making him
the fifth player in NFL history to have at least 100 catches in
four or more seasons.



---



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