The Vikings’ already shorthanded defense suffered a significant loss late in the first half of a 31-23 victory over the Texans on Sunday when safety Harrison Smith was ejected for his hit on Jordan Akins after the tight end caught a 26-yard pass from DeShaun Watson.
As Akins caught the ball, Smith came flying into the play and led with his helmet. That resulted in a penalty that moved the ball to the Minnesota 10-yard line with 1:05 left in the second quarter. After the flag was thrown by referee Brad Rogers’ crew, the play was reviewed in New York and the decision to disqualify Smith was made. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer argued the call but the decision had been made.
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The Texans got a field goal on the drive as the Vikings led 17-6 at halftime. Akins was lost for the game after he failed the concussion protocol tests he was put through.
“I love Harrison Smith like he’s my son, first of all,” Zimmer said. “My issue is the quarterbacks can throw the ball in the middle of the field and there are no repercussions whatsoever. And Harrison is not a dirty player, he’s never been a dirty player. I feel like he tried to get his shoulder in there. They told me that the league office (in New York) ejected him and … if they want to give us a penalty, fine, give us a penalty. But don’t eject guys. This guy is one of the best players in the NFL and one of the best people in the NFL. He’s not a dirty player and so that’s kind of what irritated me.”
The Vikings entered the game shorthanded in the secondary with cornerbacks Mike Hughes (neck) and Kris Boyd (hamstring) having been declared out. Veteran George Iloka, promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, replaced Smith at safety alongside Anthony Harris.