MINNEAPOLIS -- The road has been unkind to the Houston Texans this season. Although in fairness, they've faced two of the NFL's hottest teams away from home.
On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings were the latest team to rough up the visiting Texans. Minnesota sprinted to a big early lead, and played their evolving brand of smothering defense to remain unbeaten in 2016 with a 31-13 win.
The Vikings (5-0) led 24-0 in the second quarter, putting up points on three of their first four drives, and held Houston to just a pair of field goals until late in the game. Playing their first daytime game at U.S. Bank Stadium, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford thrived even without his top receiver, completing 22 of 30 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I think it's a credit to our offensive coaches. They've done a really nice job of getting guys involved, trying to get them ready to play in a short period of time. It's also a credit to our players," said third-year Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. "I keep saying this: We're a team. We're not a bunch of individuals."
Houston (3-2) failed to find a rhythm with quarterback Brock Osweiler under siege. He was sacked a season-high four times and went 19-of-42 passing with a touchdown and an interception, while the Texans gained just 59 yards on the ground -- 39 of those coming on their lone touchdown drive. The Vikings kept the Texans out of the end zone until Osweiler's one-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 3:46 to play. Houston's only other road game was a 27-0 loss at New England.
"Any time you lose a football game like we did today, it's a group effort," Osweiler said, after shouldering much of the blame for the ineffective offense. "It's never just one person. So I think everybody has to look themselves in the mirror."
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, who had 13 catches this season entering the game, started in place of the injured Stefon Diggs and had a career day, catching seven passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Despite losing starting guard Brandon Fusco to a concussion on the opening drive, Bradford shredded the Texans in the first quarter and Minnesota sprinted to a 14-0 lead. He hit Thielen with a 36-yard pass to cap the opening drive, and got a 1-yard run from Matt Asiata to make it a two-touchdown lead with the opening quarter barely half over. The Vikings won their first three games after trailing early, but have not trailed in beating the Giants and Texans at home.
"The last few weeks it seems like it's taken us a little bit to get into a rhythm, so it's nice to come out and play like we did," said Bradford, who has zero turnovers in four games with the Vikings. "We showed them a few different looks, but to start fast and start the way we did was the key."
The Texans got a short field for their fourth drive, taking over at the Minnesota 38, but were unable to advance and settled for a long field goal try. Nick Novak's 51-yard attempt went wide right. Vikings defense held Houston without a first down in the opening quarter.
Houston stopped the Vikings offense at the one-yard line, where they settled for a 19-yard Blair Walsh field goal to make it 17-0, and the Minnesota special teams made it 24-0 when Marcus Sherels returned a punt 79 yards. Sherels tied the franchise record for punt return touchdowns, with the fifth of his career.
The Texans, who were 1 of 13 on third down, finally sustained a drive late in the first half, getting Novak field goals from 38 and 30 yards out, for a 24-6 Minnesota lead at halftime.
"I thought that we had a good practice week but it didn't show up on Sunday," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "That's a reflection of the game plan, especially offensively and it just wasn't good enough. That's a reflection on me, and I'm serious. I don't know any other way to tell you. I'm not trying to cover for anybody...I've got to do a much better job with this team. I think this can be a good football team, but I have to do a much better job."
Minnesota has a bye before traveling to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 23. The Texans are at home to face the Colts next week.
NOTES: Texans CB Kareem Jackson was deactivated due to a hamstring injury. Kevin Johnson started at cornerback and the Texans lost three more starters from the secondary during the game. Among Houston's injuries Sunday were S Quintin Demps (calf), CB Jonathan Joseph (concussion), G Jeff Allen (concussion), LB Brian Peters (quad). TE Ryan Griffin was carted off after suffering a neck injury in the third quarter. ... The Vikings lost G Brandon Fusco (concussion) and TE MyCole Pruitt (knee) during the game.