6 takeaways from the Vikings win over the Texans in Week 4

(Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) George Iloka /

Minnesota’s defense is lost without Smith

After the first three weeks of the season, it has been pretty obvious that the Vikings defense hasn’t been performing at a high level like they typically have ever since Mike Zimmer became the team’s head coach in 2014.

Still, it seemed like they were making some good progress on Sunday against the Texans. During the first half, Minnesota was able to hold Houston to just 112 total yards and six points. It was the fewest points allowed by the Vikings in the first two quarters of a game since last season in Week 14 during a win over the Detroit Lions.

But then Minnesota had to play the entire second half against the Texans without the services of All-Pro safety Harrison Smith. Luckily he wasn’t lost to an injury, but Smith was unable to play in the third and fourth quarter on Sunday after he was ejected late in the second quarter because of an unintentional helmet-to-helmet hit.

Both the Vikings and Texans quickly realized how important the safety was to the success of Minnesota’s defense. Smith missing the second half almost cost the Vikings the game on Sunday.

In place of Minnesota’s top safety in the third and fourth quarter was George Iloka, who was signed just a few weeks ago. Houston ended up being able to score two touchdowns after Iloka didn’t know where he was supposed to be and who he was supposed to be covering.

Zimmer said after the game that Iloka had practiced all week as the Vikings nickel corner. But Minnesota didn’t have much of a choice other than to put him out there at safety on Sunday since the depth of their defensive backfield seems to shrink each week.

In the end, Iloka’s mistakes didn’t cost the Vikings the win. But Minnesota should take this as a lesson to be better at preparing someone to replace Smith in the future in case he has to miss time again.