Yates came in after starting quarterback Matt Schaub was good on all five of his throws in the opening series. Yates hit rookie DeAndre Hopkins with a 34-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Houston did not take the lead for good until it scored two touchdowns in the fourth period, one of them coming on a 2-yard pass from rookie Case Keenum to Lestar Jean.
The Texans are coming off the best season in franchise history, a 12-4 campaign that put them in the playoffs.
Minnesota rookie Zach Line caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cassel in the first half.