Who is Donovan McNabb's go-to receiver? Good question, because he hasn't established one from one…
Hidden hero: Percy Harvin
Adrian Peterson will get the accolades for three first-half touchdowns, but Harvin kept showing up on the film and he knows it.
"When you've got a running back, 28, just give him a little something and he'll make the most of it. [Cardinals safety Adrian] Wilson was their big-box guy, so coach kind of put that on me early in the week," Harvin said. "I'm a contact player. Love it. Anytime I've got the ball or not, I was on the highlights – even though A.P. got the yards, I was on every highlight with him blocking and doing things like that."
On Peterson's 4-yard touchdown run to start the Vikings' 28-point first quarter, Harvin came racing in from the receiver position to crack back at the line of scrimmage and open a lane for Peterson while tight end Jim Kleinsasser pushed his man into the end zone. Less than six minutes into the game, the Vikings had a 7-0 lead despite Harvin not touching the ball.
Only 23 second later, after an Asher Allen interception, tackle Phil Loadholt created the initial lane for Peterson around the right edge, but there was Harvin downfield sustaining a block on Wilson and pushing him long enough for Peterson to run by him down the right sideline on his way to a 14-0 lead.
"The way he blocked yesterday was incredible, to the point where he's going to receive a game ball for that," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "[Harvin] didn't have the big numbers from a receiving standpoint, but the things he did blocking for Adrian – Adrian had a great day – but some of those runs wouldn't have occurred without Percy.
"It doesn't show up in the stat sheets, but you talk about being an unselfish player and he's a star player. He's taking out linebackers, taking out safeties and some of these plays were designed for him to do just that. Never complained. When you watch him block, you say, 'Man, is he a wide receiver or is he an offensive lineman?'"
It didn't stop for Harvin. On each of the Vikings' touchdown drives, Harvin played a big role despite never touching the ball. His most impressive and reckless block may have come on the third touchdown series. On second down, Donovan McNabb completed a pass to Visanthe Shiancoe and Harvin came jetting across the field and threw his body into linebacker Clark Haggans for a blindside hit Haggans never saw coming.
Mind you, Haggans is 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds. At 5-11, 184 pounds, Harvin has no fear and about 180 pounds of courage.
"When I'm out there, it's balls to the wall, 100 percent. We'll deal with the body Sunday night through Tuesday," he said when asked if he ever considers preservation of the body when making those blocks.
"A couple weeks ago, I got a knockdown against a defensive lineman. You don't want five or six guys just throwing bodies on [Peterson]. It's a long season, so anytime I can help him that's what I do."
Three plays after Harvin helped free Shiancoe for a 20-yard gain, the Vikings were in the end zone with a 21-0 lead. But eventually Harvin's attempts to preserve the bodies of his running backs caught up with him.
After helping to set up a 36-yard pass interference penalty set up by his effectiveness on end-arounds the previous week, Harvin went after Wilson again during an innocent-looking 4-yard Toby Gerhart run, but Harvin ended up aggravating a rib injury that has been lingering since preseason.
"He did such a great job for us and we all know how explosive he is when he has the ball in his hands. He really epitomized in a lot of ways what we talk about when we say, 'Do what's best for the team,'" Frazier said. "That's what we talked about on Saturday night: 'We have to forget about my personal stats. I've got to do whatever I've got to do to help our football team [get] wins. I can't get caught up in how many catches I have, how many interceptions I get, how many sacks. Team. Team.' And he epitomized it the way he played on Sunday."
After sitting out a series while the medical staff tended to his rib injury, Harvin returned to the game and was the recipient of blocking on a 12-yard run that still required his speed to get to the outside opening. On the next series, he caught a 12-yard pass.
Those are the only two plays that will show up on the stat sheet, but Harvin was all over the field in the first half helping improve the stats of others.
"A.P., he'll get all the accolades, but he comes to me all the time to let me know he appreciates it. That's all we want," Harvin said. "We're all teammates here. Whoever don't have the ball, it's our job to block and make sure 28 – even if it's a 3-yard gain, it's not just 10 people throwing bodies on him or trying to get extra contact with him."
Harvin would rather initiate the contact himself and deal with the consequences later.
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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