MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson showed off some of that first-round talent.
Houston and Minnesota can’t wait to put that to use when the games actually count.
Hopkins caught a 34-yard touchdown pass for the Texans in a 27-13 preseason victory on Friday over the Vikings. Patterson had an equally flashy first half.
“Once I got out there and heard the fans and the kickoff, it kind of set in and all the jitters went away,” said Hopkins, the 27th pick in the draft, who finished with four receptions for 52 yards.
Patterson, taken two slots later out of Tennessee, caught four passes for 54 yards and returned the opening kickoff 50 yards.
“I really thought he was going to go all the way,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said, adding: “That was very encouraging, something that we can definitely build on.”
Patterson picked up enough energy from the preseason game crowd to push through some early fatigue, and the long run “took some pressure off” him.
“I can’t wait until a regular season game to see how crazy that’s going to be,” he said.
Christian Ponder connected with Jerome Simpson for 15 yards right after Patterson’s return, 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.
“Obviously we would’ve liked to have a touchdown and a long drive, but it is what it is,” Ponder said. “We’ve got a ton of practice left to get better.”
The quick end tempted Frazier to keep Ponder and the other starters in for a second possession.
“Then I had to remind myself of why we made the decision that we were going to go one series … whether it was two plays, three plays, 10 plays,” the coach said.
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, but he 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.
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.
He 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.
“He should be fine. We could’ve put him back in the game,” Frazier said.
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 a preseason 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.
“He’s been doing that all camp. If you give him a chance with the ball he’s going to make the play,” coach Gary Kubiak said, adding: “That’s why he’s here, and it’s just fun to watch these young players doing good things.”
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.