Percy Harvin said his 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was simply a matter of opportunity. It was the first time he got a kick down the middle of the field on Sunday and he took advantage of it. See what he had to say about the play and get more than three dozen notes that help tell the story of the game.
If there is such a thing as the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year flying under the radar, Percy Harvin
has been such a player. With the spotlight being shared with Hall of Famers Brett Favre
and Randy Moss
and potential Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson
, Harvin hasn't been able to find his own place in the sun in a tumultuous start to the 2010 season.
That changed in a big way Sunday. With the Vikings trailing 14-7 at halftime of Sunday's game with the Dallas Cowboys
, the team was flat and needed an infusion of momentum. Harvin provided that with an electrifying 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to tie the game and get the Metrodome crowd in a deafening tizzy.
Harvin said the return team has been frustrated because they have been an eyelash away from breaking off a couple of potential touchdown returns only to have a fingertip tackle bringing Harvin down before he hits the open field. He said the timing of the return couldn't have been better and it clearly turned the tide of the game.
While Harvin made the mad dash to the end zone, he said it wouldn't have been possible without perfectly executed blocking.
"We were more worried about whether the kicker was going to put in a good spot," Harvin said. "He did and we took it back. The blockers did a great job and I hit a seam. I knew it was going to open up. I wasn't sure if the kicker was going to clog the hole up. Our blockers were able to get ahead of him and I was able to shoot through there. A lot of the credit goes to those guys up front."
Head coach Brad Childress said the Vikings desperately needed a spark and Harvin infused the entire team with energy with his return. When asked if the return gave the Vikings the lift they needed, Childress said few plays in football are a demoralizing as a return for a touchdown.
"It always does," Childress said of the boost the sideline got from the score. "Randy (Moss) said something about bringing your own energy coming out of the locker room. I think (the Dallas offense was) on the field twice as long as we were in the first half. We didn't have anything going. We had the one turnover and we scored points off it. There's no better energy than a return for a score."
Harvin said the Vikings had seen something in film study that they thought they could exploit, but early on – between squib kicks and directional kickoffs – they never got the opportunity. When kicker David Buehler booted the second half kickoff down the middle of the field, Harvin knew he had his chance.
"We tried to get it earlier in the game, but the kicker kept putting the ball too far to the sideline," Harvin said. "Everything just worked out for the best and those 10 guys, they did a great job and I did the easy part."
The magnitude of the play was enormous for the psyche of the Vikings, who needed a big play to revive their 2010 season. The team needed a spark to light the fire and Harvin was the one who brought it, not the other galaxy of stars on the Vikings roster.
"It was huge for us," Harvin said. "We know we've got a tough couple of games coming up and it was good for us to kind of get in the flow of things. We did that. We're going to come in tomorrow, fix up whatever we need to do and keep it rolling."
GAME DAY NOTES
The Vikings won the game, but you wouldn't tell it by looking at the final numbers. Dallas had 314 total yards to just 188 for the Vikings, ran 60 plays to the Vikings' 50, had almost a four-and-a-half-minute advantage in time of possession and a better red zone proficiency. Yet, as they have found ways to do more often than not this season, they still lost.
Thanks to three sacks of Favre, the Vikings had more rushing yards (95) than passing yards (93) Sunday.
Both teams were among the best in the league in third-down defense, but both allowed the opposing offense to covert 50 percent or more of their third-down opportunities. Dallas converted nine of 17 third downs (53 percent) and, on one of the third downs in which they failed, they converted on fourth down. The Vikings offense made good on six of 12 third downs (50 percent).
Dallas once again killed itself with stupid penalties. Averaging 11 penalties a game, the Cowboys had a typical day – committing 11 penalties for 91 yards. As frustrating as the penalties were, it was what they represented that was the killer. A 68-yard touchdown to Miles Austin was negated by a penalty and a holding call on a fourth-quarter punt return with the game tied 21-21 put the ball back in the Dallas 14-yard line, negating a 34-yard punt return by Dez Bryant that would have put the Cowboys on the Vikings 42-yard line. Three plays later, E.J. Henderson got the interception that would result in the game-winning points.
Favre's 118 passing yards were the fewest since his Vikings debut, when he threw for just 110 yards against Cleveland.
Favre had his first game without an interception this season, completing 14 of 19 passes for 118 yards with one touchdown and a passer rating of 106.9. Tony Romo completed 22 of 34 passes for 220 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 98.4.
Peterson had 24 carries for 73 yards – more than two yards below his season average, but scored his fourth touchdown – remaining tied with Harvin for the team lead.
The combination of Felix Jones and Marion Barber combined to rush 24 times for just 64 yards.
Moss led all Vikings receivers with five catches for 55 yards. Felix Jones led the Cowboys with 10 receptions for 61 yards.
Roy Williams scored two touchdowns and Bryant scored the other TD, but the running backs had 15 of Dallas' 24 receptions.
In the second half, Dallas had the ball six times. Five of those drives had three plays or fewer.
The Vikings linebackers were extremely active Sunday due to the short passing game of the Cowboys. Chad Greenway had 12 tackles (eight solo), E.J. Henderson had nine tackles (four solo) and two interceptions and Ben Leber had seven tackles (five solo). CB Antoine Wiufield added 10 tackles (eight solo).
The Vikings didn't have a sack Sunday.
The final play of the game was reminiscent of the Cal-Stanford game and took the official league scoring summary several minutes to dissect. On a typical play, it will give the principals and the direction and distance. For example, a typical play would go something like this "B. Favre pass short left to R. Moss to DAL 26 for 9 yards (T. Newman). The final play of the game read as follows: "T. Romo pass short right to F. Jones to DAL 40 for 14 yards. Lateral to R. Williams to DAL 32 for -8 yards. Lateral to T. Romo to DAL 43 for 11 yards. T. Romo pass short right to M. Austin to DAL 40 for -3 yards. Lateral to J. Witten to DAL 34 for -6 yards. Lateral to D. Bryant to 50 for 16 yards. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by MIN-C. Greenway at DAL 39. C. Greenway to DAL 39 for no gain (T. Romo). In the end, the Romo pass was forward and would have resulted in a penalty had the Cowboys somehow scored.
Romo ended up with a bizarre stat line thanks to that play, having zero receptions for 11 yards.
Both Barber and Peterson have yet to be stopped on third-and-1 rushing attempts. Barber was 4-for-4 on third-and-one conversions Sunday, while Peterson was 3-for-3.
After being dominated in the first half, the Vikings owned the third quarter. They ran 16 plays to eight for Dallas, outgained the Cowboys 97-13 and outscoring Dallas 14-0.
Jim Kleinsasser showed some moves on a strange play in the third quarter. Favre dropped the snap and, when the defender assigned to Kleinsasser left him to go after the loose ball, the tight end was wide open and rumbled 20 yards, making safety Gerald Sensabaugh look sick with a fake to the outside and cutback to the inside, leaving the safety grabbing air.
Harvin gave the Vikings a huge spark to start the second half when he raced 95 yards for a touchdown on the opening kick of the half. For Harvin, it was the third return touchdown of his short, 20-game career. It tied him for the franchise record with three career returns for touchdowns and gives him two of the six longest kickoff returns for a touchdown, and he became the first Viking to score multiple kickoff return touchdowns.
Dallas dominated the second quarter, holding the ball for 11 minutes, 26 seconds to have a huge time-of-possession disparity at halftime (19:30 to 10:30 for the Vikings). Dallas had 190 total yards (115 passing, 75 rushing) to just 60 for the Vikings (36 rushing, 22 passing).
In the second quarter, the Cowboys ran 19 plays, as opposed to just seven for the Vikings.
Individually in the first half, Favre completed six of seven passes for 47 yards and a touchdown, for a passer rating of 134.2. Peterson had nine carries for 38 yards, and Harvin was the only player with more than one catch, hauling in three for 21 yards.
For Dallas, Romo completed 13 of 17 passes for 115 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 108.7. Romo was also the leading rusher, taking off three times for 31 yards, while Barber and Jones combined for 16 carries for 44 yards. Jones was the leading receiver with five catches for 40 yards. Williams had just two catches for 17 yards, but both were touchdowns.
In the first half, Favre dropped to pass 10 times. He was hit eight times and sacked on three of those plays.
Husain Abdullah suffered a head injury in the second quarter. He did not return to the game. Jamarca Sanford replaced him.
Dallas starting left guard Kyle Kosier was injured in the second quarter, which was reported to be an Achilles injury, and didn't come back.
With the Vikings in field goal range in the second quarter, a critical sack by DeMarcus Ware pushed the Vikings out of field goal range and forced them to punt – a mistake that likely took three points away from the Vikings. Favre admitted he should have thrown the ball away to keep them in field goal position.
Eight of Romo's first 11 completions were screen passes to his running backs, an offensive model the Cowboys stuck with the entire game.
Austin had an electrifying 68-yard TD nullified due to an offensive pass interference penalty. The Cowboys' top deep threat was limited to just two catches for 12 yards Sunday.
In the first quarter, the Cowboys dominated the major statistics. They outgained the Vikings 70-39, allowing the Vikings just 39 yards on 13 offensive plays.
Individually, Favre completed five of six passes in the first quarter for 45 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 137.5. Peterson had five carries for just three yards. Harvin was the only Viking with more than one reception, catching two passes for 19 yards.
For the Cowboys, Romo completed five of eight passes for 37 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 73.4. Barber and Jones combined to carry eight times for just 21 yards. Four different Cowboys caught passes in the first quarter.
On the last play of the first quarter, Favre threw a touchdown to Greg Camarillo. Not only was it Camarillo's first TD as a Viking, he became the 60th different player to catch a touchdown pass from No. 4.
The Cowboys have been victimized by stupid penalties that have hurt the team throughout the early part of the season. Sunday was no exception. After scoring the first points of the game, Austin was penalized for excessive celebration – the second straight week Dallas was called for a celebration penalty following a TD. To complicate matters, kicker David Buehler kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Vikings the ball on the Dallas 45-yard line to open their second drive of the game.
The first Vikings drive of the game looked solid as the team converted a couple of first downs with Peterson runs. But, after crossing midfield, Peterson and Favre botched an exchange. It was ruled as an aborted play and Favre was charged with the fumble, keeping Peterson officially fumble-free this season. Dallas converted the turnover into a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
When the Vikings offense took the field for the first time, the fans starting chanting "Randy! Randy!" in tribute to Moss making his Metrodome return.
Minnesota Twins star Michael Cuddyer sounded the ceremonial Gjallarhorn to bring the Vikings out onto the field.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.