CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bad ribs and all, Vikings receiver Percy Harvin made a vintage spin move that left Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble clutching only his helmet in disbelief and Harvin practically on all fours in agony.
It also might have been the play of the game, turning what could have been a three-and-out punting situation from inside the Vikings 20-yard line into a game-winning fourth-quarter drive that lasted longer than 7 minutes and went 72 yards in 13 plays.
"That's just me in open space," said Harvin, referring to his 11-yard catch on third-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday's 24-21 victory at Carolina.
Facing heavy pressure, quarterback Christian Ponder threw to Harvin in the right flat. Gamble closed in quickly.
"Two things came to mind: Either run him over or try to move him," Harvin said. "He wasn't going to move, so I figured the spin move would work. I figured he thought I was going to try to run him over, so I let him put all his weight on me and then spun off of him."
Gamble whiffed as Harvin spun and went 11 yards before being tackled. Hard. He went to the sideline, his aching ribs killing him. Again.
Harvin has been limited or missed practices in recent weeks because of the rib injury that goes back to the preseason. He was questionable for Sunday's game, yet caught four passes for 58 yards and four first downs, although one ended with him having the ball stolen from him by cornerback Captain Munnerlyn in the second quarter. Harvin also ran three times for 16 yards, including 10 on the second rushing touchdown of his career, and ignited teammates when he fought back and drew a personal foul penalty after Munnerlyn had driven him into the Panthers' bench.
"All the guys knew that he was banged up," coach Leslie Frazier said. "They've known it for a while. As a matter of fact, in our meeting last night, one of the rookies said, 'Coach, do you think Percy will be able to play [Sunday]?' I said, 'Man, Percy will find a way. He understands the National Football League, and he'll find a way.'"
Harvin bounced in and out of the game during the game-winning drive as he fought through the pain. But he said he never thought about taking this week off and using next week's bye to get ready for the Packers the following Monday night. Not even with the team at 1-6.
"I love these guys," he said. "We're a team. We're professionals. It's a pride thing."
Harvin also had a 22-yard catch on second-and-15 later in the game- winning drive. But it was that spin move that had teammates talking.
"I was on the sideline thinking, 'Oh, no, what are they doing throwing into the flat so short of the first down?'" linebacker Chad Greenway said. "But wow. That's Percy. They were letting him make a play. Obviously, he's good at making things happen."
The Vikings also used Harvin to turn Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's first of two lost fumbles into a 16-yard touchdown drive. Harvin ran up the middle for 6 yards on the first carry and came back with a 10-yard score off a nice cutback move and strong blocking by right guard Joe Berger and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
"I call him Mighty Mouse," running back Adrian Peterson said. "I told him big-time players make big-time plays in critical situations. He did that. He was hurting, but he's one tough guy."