NFL: Texans top Vikings in preseason opener
MINNEAPOLIS — DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson both showed off their first-round talent.
Hopkins caught a 34-yard touchdown pass for the Houston Texans in a 27-13 preseason victory on Friday over Minnesota.
The Vikings also showcased their rookie wide receiver, too, during a flashy first half by Patterson.
Hopkins, the 27th overall pick in the draft, had four receptions for 52 yards. Patterson, taken two slots later, caught four passes for 54 yards and returned the opening kickoff 50 yards.
Christian Ponder connected with Jerome Simpson for 15 yards right after that, but when he went back to Simpson on the next play the throw was a bit high and bounced off Simpson’s hands and into Shiloh Keo’s for an interception.
Ponder, entering a critical third season for his future as Minnesota’s quarterback, only took those two snaps.
Matt Cassel came in next and finished 12 for 19 for 212 yards. He was picked off by Eddie Pleasant when he tried to throw across his body while rolling to his right. Cassel later found fullback Zach Line for a 61-yard catch and run for a score.
Houston was more efficient. Matt Schaub went 5 for 5 for 34 yards to set up a field goal on his only series. T.J. Yates was 13 for 21 for 151 yards and the scoring pass to Hopkins against the second string defense for the Vikings.
Then when the third teamers took over after halftime, Case Keenum completed 13 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Ray Graham ran for a score, too.
The Vikings saw some highlights from another one of their three first-round picks, too, with a tackle for a loss and a pass batted down at the line by defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
Floyd gave them a scare when he stayed down with an injury to his left knee, but he was able to walk off on his own.
Veterans Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway all sat out for the Vikings, and Desmond Bishop (groin) and Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) were held out.
The Texans held 20 players out, some because of injuries and others due to the desire to protect important players. Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels were missing from the offense, and J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Ed Reed were held out on defense.
Foster has been on the physically unable to perform list, first for a strained calf and now with a back issue, so the chance of him carrying the ball in an exhibition game this month is slim.
After finishing seventh in the NFL in total yards last season and setting a team record by averaging 26 points per game on their way to a franchise-best 12-4 finish and second straight playoff appearance, the Texans are on track for another elite performance if they can keep their core players healthy.
Adding Hopkins, the sure-handed kid from Clemson, can’t hurt. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Hopkins was targeted five times in the first half, including by Yates when he had a one-on-one matchup with Bobby Felder along the sideline. He leaped over the cornerback’s head to haul in the ball and cradle it close as he fell to the turf in the end zone.
Ben Tate will be Foster’s backup, but undrafted rookies Dennis Johnson (Arkansas), Cierre Wood (Notre Dame) and Graham (Pittsburgh) are in an intriguing competition for the No. 3 spot in the backfield. Wood stood out the most, with 10 rushes for 59 yards and one catch for 14 yards.
The Texans can play some defense, too, starting with the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Watt, and Cushing is coming back from a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee.
Injuries have been an issue in training camp for the Texans so far, but Brooks Reed, Joe Mays and Darryl Sharpton all started the game.
Reserve defensive end Terrell McClain had 2½ sacks.