In a game filled with so much emotion and turns in momentum as the Vikings' 38-26 win over the Green Bay Packers Sunday, there were numerous candidates for players and moments that qualified as legitimate turning points. However, a trio of plays by rookie Percy Harvin served to keep momentum on the side of the Vikings and created an exhilarating turning point of the game.
Harvin, who was questionable to play after suffering another bout of migraines during the week of preparation, got the Vikings' big offensive day off to a flying start with his ability as a kickoff returner. After a Vikings turnover in the first quarter led to a Mason Crosby field goal, the Packers led 3-0 and the fans at Lambeau Field were smelling a home win against the hated Vikings.
That all changed seconds later, as Harvin took the ensuing kickoff on the 9-yard line, found a seam in the middle of the field and broke to his right for a 77-yard return all the way to the Packers 14-yard line. Seven plays later, the Vikings scored on a 1-yard run from Adrian Peterson that would give them a 7-3 lead – an advantage they would never surrender.
Harvin said that his inability to break a long return against the Packers in their first meeting last month at the Metrodome gave him and his coaches confidence that he would get his chances and the Packers wouldn't avoid kicking the ball his way.
"I figured they were going to kick it to me," Harvin said. "They did a great job of covering me the first time we played them, so we knew they were going to kick it to me and I was going to have a chance. The blockers did a great job and I was able to hit a couple of runs."
Harvin's versatility was on display in the second of his three huge plays, which came at the start of the second half with the Vikings ahead 17-3. After converting a third-and-17 play on a 19-yard pass to Bernard Berrian to get the ball near midfield, Favre dialed up a deep pass to Harvin. By the time it came down, there were three Packers surrounding him. But Harvin leaped and caught the pass and the Packers players collided and dropped like bowling pins. He was off the races in the open field and scored on a 51-yard catch and run to open up a 24-3 lead.
Harvin said the play was one he had for a potential big play last week against the Steelers. He said the play was in the game plan for this week as well and, when it got called, he was ready to make good on it.
"It was the exact same play I had last week and got hit and dropped it," Harvin said. "I knew I was going to have another opportunity and just wanted to make the play. I dropped it last week and disappointed myself. I got another chance and was able to make it."
The third of his big play trifecta came when the Vikings needed it most – after the Packers had cut their lead from 24-3 to 24-20 and momentum had clearly swung their way. Harvin's 48-yard kickoff return put the Vikings offense in business on the Packers 38-yard line and Favre drove the team down the field for another touchdown to increase the lead to 31-20 and give the Vikings a double-digit cushion once again.
Harvin's ability to change a game as a return man and receiver was the reason the Vikings made him their first-round pick and he said he's just living up to what he was brought to the Vikings organization to do.
"I've said all year that I wanted to be able to contribute to this team," Harvin said. "We know that starting on the short side of the field (on kick returns) is nothing but a plus. It's something we study hard and it's worked for us."
When asked if there was a word he enjoyed most to describe his game, the term "electrifying" was offered up as an example. Harvin said he's cool with that.
"Electrifying," Harvin said with a smile. "You can stick with that."
We will. In a game that was dominated by the return of the 40-year-old Favre to Lambeau Field and his four touchdowns, it was three plays from the rookie that made for an electrifying turning point.
Turning point: Harvin's 'electrifying' day
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