Vikings running back Peterson rushed for 86 yards, falling far short of the 2,000-yard mark, yet helping the Vikings (9-6) keep their postseason chances alive with a 23-6 upset of the Texans on Sunday. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder threw a touchdown pass, running back Toby Gerhart added a score and Blair Walsh kicked three field goals as the Vikings won their third game in a row.
"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."
"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.
"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."
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.
"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."
"I'll be fine," he said. "I'll be OK. It's a very minor situation."
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.
A 41-yard field goal by Walsh left Minnesota up 13-3 at halftime.
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.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press