Offensive highlights were hard to come by for the Vikings in the early parts of their season opener Sunday. Through four possessions against Jacksonville, the Vikings netted 58 yards, never crossed midfield and punted all four times.
But then, late in the first half, the Vikings offense received the resuscitation it needed from Percy Harvin.
Trailing 9-0 with 2 minutes, 28 seconds left in the half, Harvin ignited the Vikings' first scoring drive of the season by taking quick passes from Christian Ponder and turning them into gains of 16, 5 and 11 yards. Just like that, momentum started building with a 2-minute drill, producing a 59-yard touchdown drive that reassured the offense.
"Huge," Ponder said.
Harvin finished with six catches for 84 yards and added five carries for 20 yards. He was also back on six of seven Jacksonville kickoffs, returning three for 88 yards. Coach Leslie Frazier was thrilled with Harvin's production, particularly on those quick-hitters.
"They weren't always blocked perfectly," Frazier said. "And he found a way to find a seam as only he can with his burst that he has. What should be a 2- or 3-yard gain all of a sudden is a 10-plus-yard gain."
Frazier also flashed back to his stint coaching at the Senior Bowl last January when coaches from all around the league repeatedly approached to tell him how difficult Harvin is to defend. That was echoed a month later by coaches at the NFL combine.
"As I heard that, I made a note to myself," Frazier said. "I have to find a way to keep him on the field more."
After leading the NFL with 50 sacks in 2011, including 40 1/2 by the defensive line, the Vikings took down Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert only twice Sunday. Linebacker Erin Henderson and cornerback Chris Cook delivered the sacks. Jared Allen, who recorded sacks in 12 of 16 games last season, couldn't get past Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe on Sunday.
For what it's worth, the Vikings did hurry Gabbert seven times.
Allen, however, was furious with the defensive effort early. Jacksonville's first two scoring drives ate up 155 yards and 16:31 on the clock and had the Vikings defensive end animated on the sidelines.
"We have a lot of stuff to clean up," he said.
Rookie kicker Blair Walsh wasn't the only special teams hero, with his tying field goal from 55 yards at the end of regulation and a game-winner from 38. The Vikings also got a special teams lift from rookie left tackle Matt Kalil, who blocked a Josh Scobee extra-point attempt midway through the second quarter.
Walsh's heroics, though, on the 55-yard kick had Adrian Peterson feeling giddy.
"I've been bragging on this guy," Peterson said. "So when he made it I was looking up in the stadium to see my uncle. I've been like, 'I've seen this guy make a 70-yard field goal during training camp.' So I was trying to look up and find [my uncle]. I'll find him and say, 'I told you about that guy. He's good. He has a good leg.' "
The Jaguars left the Twin Cities kicking themselves for squandering several early opportunities to put an inescapable sleeper hold on the Vikings. Scobee's missed PAT hurt. Jacksonville also had to settle for a field goal on its first drive, after a 16-play, 77-yard march.
On first-and-goal from the 5 on that series, Gabbert overthrew rookie Justin Blackmon, who had gained 5 yards of separation from Antoine Winfield in the end zone.
Said Gabbert: "One of those bang-bang plays. I need to adjust to the play. It was sort of a blind throw. That was on me."
On Jacksonville's next defensive series, safety Chris Prosinski dropped a gift interception that Ponder threw right to him near midfield.
Paving the way
Peterson scored both Vikings touchdowns, on runs of 3 and 2 yards. On both plays, right guard Brandon Fusco, making his first NFL start, delivered crushing blocks that helped create an opening.
"I felt good about those," Fusco said.
In his second year out of Slippery Rock, Fusco admitted after the victory that he had never been a part of anything quite as wild and improbable during his career.
He also acknowledged the calm the offense had when taking the field for the final 20 seconds of regulation, down 23-20 with the ball at its own 31.
"You always have to believe," Fusco said. "We knew we had the guys to do it. We just said, 'Do your job and everything will fall into place.' "
• The Vikings failed to sell out Sunday, the first time a regular-season game had not sold out since Dec. 21, 1997.
• Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew had an impressive afternoon, less than a week after returning to practice after a lengthy holdout. Jones-Drew, who led the NFL in rushing a year ago, ran for 77 yards on 19 carries Sunday.