Four years ago, on a short week with a banged-up secondary hobbling into Arizona, Eric Kendricks first knew the Vikings had “a certified baller” in safety Anthony Harris.
Harris, who starred in Sunday’s 28-12 win with two interceptions and a fumble recovery against the Falcons, flashed the same reliability when making his first NFL start against the Cardinals back in 2015. It was Harris’ first NFL game; he was promoted from the practice squad two days before the active roster, where he’s remained ever since.
As the Vikings know about Harris, all the undrafted Virginia product needed was an opportunity.
“I felt comfortable with him back there even though he hadn’t played a snap all year,” Kendricks said. “I heard him talking and communicating. We were on the same page and he was making plays. I just was like, ‘This dude is a baller. A certified baller.’”
Now Harris, who made his 10th consecutive start since earning the job last season next to Harrison Smith, is a certified NFL playmaker. When Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan desperately needed a completion while under duress Sunday, he threw two interceptions to Harris, who by no accident found himself in the right spot at the right time.
“That gets me emotional, honestly,” Kendricks said. “I’ve seen him go through a lot. I’ve seen him start from the bottom, legitimately. All he did was work. All he did was battle. He’s a humble guy and he knows his role on the team. There’s no question why we see him have success.”
In the first quarter, Harris’ assignment was not Falcons receiver Julio Jones, but the Vikings safety said his man didn’t run a route, so he followed Ryan’s eyes. They led him to Jones, who was being covered over the top by cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Harris dropped underneath to intercept Ryan’s first pass of the game.
“I’ve gotten really familiar with the scheme,” Harris said. “So it allows me to be more comfortable. Coming in this year, everything was settled in and just focusing in on refining my technique.”
Harris then ended the Falcons’ 13-play drive (Atlanta’s longest of the game) with his second interception in the back of the end zone. Ryan may have been trying to throw the ball away with defensive end Danielle Hunter incoming, but Harris made the leaping interception.
Smith, Harris’ All-Pro cohort, also pointed out Harris’ tackle on Jones to stall a two-point conversion just shy of the goal line in the fourth quarter.
“With him and Harrison, it’s a good combination back there,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, “because he sees Harrison doing one thing and he’s trying to disguise [so they buy it]. They’ve got a good little, I don’t know, aura about them that they can kind of go, ‘You show this time and I show that time,’ or whatever.”