Vikings are best when Harvin is raising havoc

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2012 - 10:04 AM

He's been tough, he's been productive and he's the spark that ignites the offense.

If you're keeping a running log of Percy Praise this season, it's time to add Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Ken Whisenhunt to the register.

With the Cardinals preparing to march into Mall of America Field on Sunday, both Fitzgerald and Whisenhunt are fully aware that Percy Harvin has been a major catalyst for the Vikings' fast start.

And neither were shy with their compliments Wednesday.

Fitzgerald, tuned in enough to appreciate receiving brilliance from afar, labeled Harvin "the most dynamic offensive player in the game" right now.

"It's hard to miss him," Fitzgerald said. "He's on ESPN every weekend with the highlight plays."

So often, in fact, that Fitzgerald compares Harvin's fearless playing style to Adrian Peterson's.

"He's not scared of contact," Fitzgerald said. "He doesn't shy away from it. ... Those kind of guys make me glad I don't have to play defense. There's no way I'd want to have to tackle guys with those kinds of moves and that kind of power."

Whisenhunt, meanwhile, is busy formulating a plan to contain Harvin, a task he knows has few obvious solutions.

"He's all over the place," Whisenhunt said. "It's tough. You have to be aware of where he is and try to understand how they're going to attack with him. ... He's versatile and explosive and tough."

The long and short of it

It'd be outlandish to suggest the Vikings are underutilizing Harvin, whose 49 catches are the most ever by a Viking through six games. Harvin has been targeted on 62 passes this season and has also added 15 runs for 63 yards, clearly a focal point in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's attack.

But there remains some question as to why Harvin is used almost exclusively on shorter passes.

Of his 49 catches, only four have been hauled in more than 15 yards downfield. And of Harvin's seven receptions this year for 20 yards or more, three were caught behind the line of scrimmage or within 4 yards.

Said quarterback Christian Ponder: "Obviously, the stuff underneath is working really well. [Percy] caught a go-ball a couple weeks ago [against Tennessee] and we had a deep ball against Washington caught down the middle. We're going to find ways to get him downfield and keep getting him stuff underneath.

"But we're going to keep giving him the ball no matter what."

This week, there's also the matter of those nine first-quarter red zone plays the Vikings had in Washington where Harvin didn't touch the ball.

On Wednesday, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier again attempted to explain Harvin's limited red zone role.

"We had some things where we would have liked to try to get him the ball when he was in there," Frazier said. "But they did a good job on defense."

True grit

Still, it's hard to look back on Harvin's first six games with anything but glowing praise.

Perhaps more impressive than his productivity has been his toughness. Against the Redskins, for example, it wasn't just that he had a career-best 11 catches for 133 yards. It's that after almost all of those grabs, he went into Tasmanian Devil-mode, zooming around and slamming into defenders at every opportunity.

That's a big reason Harvin's 415 yards after the catch leads the NFL by a wide margin. (New England's Wes Welker is second with 300.)

Yet even with all those demolition derby collisions, Harvin continues to bounce back up.

"I'm a little sore," he admitted Monday. "But no sorer than anybody else."

A year ago, Harvin was listed on the injury report before seven games, slowed by injuries to the point that Frazier and his staff felt compelled to rein in his role a tad.

But so far this season, Harvin has yet to miss a practice and surfaced on the injury report for the first time last week with a minor hamstring injury.

At this point, with Harvin providing the green light, the Vikings will continue turning him loose, still conscious of keeping their playmaker in one piece but no longer feeling restrained in how they use him

Said Frazier: "We're going to always try to do what's best for the team. And what's best for our team is to have Percy on the field. That's obvious. "His style of play is not going to change, so we're going to utilize his talents to the fullest."

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