Despite dealing with sore ribs – they are likely more than just sore, but he doesn't like to detail his injuries – since training camp, Harvin moved back into the team lead for receptions. He remains a key element in the running game and he also returns kicks, although the Vikings limited him there on Sunday.
"His presence on the field changes the way defenses are called by opposing coordinators. We have to be smart for how we use him," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "You have to be so tempted to get him overly involved, but we have to be careful, especially with the fact that he's battling rib injuries. We tried our best to keep a good handle on where he was and what he was doing. He came up big in that fourth quarter for us."
Harvin was "big" throughout the game. On the Vikings' second series, he was the only player that touched the ball, rushing up the middle twice for a combined 16 yards, including his 10-yard touchdown. On their game-winning field goal drive, he was essential. On third-and-7, he broke key tackles and gained 11 yards for a first down. Four plays later, on second-and-15, he came up with a 22-yard reception to put the Vikings in scoring position.
"The guy is unbelievable," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "He's tough. He's one of the toughest guys on the team, not only physically but mentally. I think the biggest play of the game was him catching that flat – it was a hot route – catching that flat on the last drive and making a guy miss and getting the first down. He's got tremendous heart and he's a tremendous player. Even though he's a Gator, I'll play with him."
Amusing that Ponder, the Florida State product, would say that. On Friday, the two of them, whose lockers are just a few feet from each other, were joking about facing each other in college, when Harvin's Gators beat Ponder's Seminoles.
Despite only being halfway through the season and dealing with his pain in the ribs, Harvin already has more rushes (19) in a season than any other Vikings receiver in franchise history. He has the most receptions (31) of any Viking this season despite having his snaps limited and has the second-most rushes (19) while having the highest rushing average (9.6 yards) of anyone with more than two carries.
Despite the Vikings entering the game with a 1-6 record and Harvin being limited all last week in practice, on Friday he left no doubt that he would play and continue to wear protective padding for ribs.
Frazier said one of the rookies asked him Saturday night if he thought Harvin would play. Obviously, that rookie hasn't seen the track record that Harvin has established in his 2½ seasons with the Vikings. If he misses a game, it's not because he doesn't want to play.
"Percy will find a way. He understands the National Football League," Frazier said. "… For Percy to go out there and play, and play the way he played today, it does a lot for the rest of your team and other guys who may be a little suspect and wondering, can I play with this injury? You look at a guy like Percy or a guy like Adrian (Peterson, ankle) and you say, ‘You know what? If they can do it, I'll try to gut it out if I can.'"
RARE MOVE ON SMITH
Steve Smith got 100 yards receiving against the Vikings once again, but that shouldn't have been a surprise. Minnesota's secondary was without starter Antoine Winfield (neck) and would-be starter Chris Cook (suspended), and Smith continues to lead the NFL in receiving with 46 catches for 918 yards.
With a depleted secondary, the Vikings tried a different tactic, having CB Asher Allen shadow Smith. Normally, the Vikings have their cornerbacks stay on one side of the field, but with Cedric Griffin's knees clearly an issue in the first half of this season, Allen drew the unsavory assignment of following Smith.
"We thought it was to our best benefit to have Ash line up with Steve throughout this game," Frazier said. "Something we just thought from a strategic standpoint we needed to do."
Smith entered the game averaging 116 yards per contest and 21 yards per reception. Against the Vikings he had 100 yards and averaged 14.3 yards per catch.
WINFIELD WAITING IT OUT
Winfield said on Wednesday and Thursday he hoped to play against the Carolina Panthers, but he didn't sound as optimistic after getting contact on his neck during Thursday's practice. By Friday, he was still limited in practice and wasn't on the field at the end of practice, nor was he available for comment in the locker room after practice.
Other inactives for the Vikings were RB Lorenzo Booker (concussion), LB Xavier Adibi, G Anthony Herrera (knee), OL DeMarcus Love and DE D'Aundre Reed. Herrera was declared out on Friday with a lateral collateral ligament injury in his left knee and didn't practice all week. Joe Berger started in place of Herrera.
McNABB WALKING THE LINE
As Donovan McNabb tries to defend his work ethic and promote his football future to the rest of the NFL's decision-makers, he walks a fine line between refuting reports and demeaning Ponder's potential.
In an interview with Andrea Kremer for NFL Network, McNabb was asked about comments from Frazier saying that rookie Ponder gives the team a better chance to win than McNabb.
"That's something that provides support for Christian, from the other guys. But if you look at what we were doing, statistically I wasn't playing bad, wasn't turning the ball over," McNabb said. "We were averaging 20-plus points or so. But there's a lot of things that go into that and you're 1-5, obviously everyone wants to see the younger guy, the so-called spark."
Asked if Ponder can provide a spark that he can't, McNabb said with a smile, "Well, no. But he's a young guy that the fans got excited for the time being."
McNabb said he was excited to come to Minnesota and be paired with the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson, and a top-10 defense. Now, however …
"There are a lot of problems on this team," McNabb said.
But one of the more interesting comments that flies in the face of his performance this year came when asked about his ability to get the ball downfield in the passing game.
"Downfield throws are something I made my name in," McNabb said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.