Notebook: Vikings convert without Harvin

Percy Harvin is the Vikings' leading weapon on third downs, but the offense continued to convert while the receiver missed his first game as a pro with migraine headaches. See the unexpected success they had and what they said about that, as well as a look at the rookie contributions, playoff possibilities and roster shuffling.

Coming off a physical loss against the Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings were expecting another tough fight with the Cincinnati Bengals, but Minnesota hit the Bengals in their strong suits and still succeeded.

The Vikings committed to the running game despite the Bengals sporting the league's second-ranked rushing defense. The Vikings also found a lot of success on third down despite the Bengals entering the game as the NFL's top-ranked defense on third downs.

"Our guys were really challenged in terms of being able to convert third downs, and I think we were 57 percent on our third-down conversions," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I thought we drove the ball well. We had a couple of three-and-outs, but I think there are five series in there where we had three field goals and two touchdowns."

The Vikings started the game with a three-and-out series in a scoreless first quarter, but they didn't have another three-and-out until they had a 23-7 lead in the third quarter. By the end of the game, the Vikings had converted eight of 14 third downs (57 percent) against a Bengals defense that averaged allowing only 32.9 percent of third downs to be converted against them.

It was the third time in the last four games that the Vikings have converted more than 55 percent of their third downs after accomplishing that twice in the first eight games. The best they've done this season is 66.7 percent against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 29, converting 12 of 18 third downs in that win.

Making the accomplishment more impressive is that the offense was without rookie receiver Percy Harvin, who wasn't at the game because of a migraine headache. Harvin entered the weekend tied for fourth in the NFL in third-down receptions with 23 of them.

"Of course, without Percy out there, there is going to be a gap in our offense," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "We had guys stepping up and filling that void. Greg Lewis made that spectacular third-down play. We got guys to step it up. We've got depth here."

That's true. Running back Chester Taylor entered the weekend tied for sixth in the league with 21 third-down receptions.

With Harvin's versatility to play a variety of skill positions, Shiancoe said some plays were thrown out of the playbook in the rookie's absence, but "we have a smorgasbord of plays that we can choose from."

Harvin is expected to be at Wednesday's practice, Childress told Sirius NFL Radio.

DRAFT CONTRIBUTIONS

With safety Jamarca Sanford and linebacker Jasper Brinkley making their first NFL starts for injured defenders, all five of the Vikings' drafted rookies from April have made at least one start this season. Harvin, the first-round draft pick, has started five games. Tackle Phil Loadholt, the second-round pick, has started 12 games. Cornerback Asher Allen (third round), Brinkley (fifth round) and Sanford (seventh round) have all started one game.

Childress credits Rick Spielman, vice president of player personnel, and Scott Studwell, director of college scouting, for their evaluation of talent.

"I think Rick's done a tremendous job with identifying guys, and I think all of our scouts were in this week initially going through a draft board," Childress said. "I think everybody is on board with the type of people that we're looking for and then obviously the physical skills that we're looking for that match our offensive and defensive systems. Can't say enough about Rick and Scott Studwell and all the scouts that are pressing the flesh, and all for six or seven (draft picks)."

WIDE OPEN PLAYOFFS

The Vikings are one of only three teams – including the Colts and Saints – to have secured a playoff spot.

As the NFL enters Week 15, 11 teams are still vying for a playoff berth in the NFC. By the end of the weekend, however, four of the six NFC spots could be decided. For now, however, only the Vikings and Saints have secured a playoff spot in the NFC.

The Saints have already secured the NFC South and a first-round bye and could lock up homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs this weekend.

With a win Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers, the Vikings would secure back-to-back division titles for first time since winning six in a row from 1973-78.

NOTES

The Vikings promoted LB J Leman to the active roster Tuesday after signing him to the practice squad last week. Leman's promotion comes on the heels of LB Erin Henderson being suspended for violating the league's policy on banned substances.

The Vikings re-signed CB DeAndre Wright to the practice squad on Tuesday. He was released last week when the Vikings made a series of moves to cover for injuries at linebacker and offensive tackle. He was originally signed to the Vikings practice squad on Oct. 21.

Adrian Peterson came close to the 100-yard rushing mark on Sunday, going for 97 yards, but he hasn't reached the century mark the last four games. Still, guard Anthony Herrera said he doesn't believe that bothers Peterson. "Not at all. This year for us it's all about winning," Herrera said. "We don't care who gets the accolades as long as at the end of the season we're in that big day, that's all we care about. It's always for the betterment of the team. We're never going to put ourselves in front of the team."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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