When Percy Harvin went down against the Seattle Seahawks because of an ankle sprain, sidelining him for four weeks so far and forcing him to miss the Vikings' past three games, it did more than take away the team's primary option at wide receiver. It also showcased how his productivity was the main reason other Vikings wide receivers were able to accumulate any stats at all, and their failure might account for the team's 23-14 loss to the Packers on Sunday and their loss in Chicago last week.
Harvin was responsible for more than 50 percent of receptions by Vikings wide receivers when he went down, with 62 receptions for 677 yards and three touchdowns.
And if you take a look at the numbers for the rest of the team's wide receivers in their past three games without Harvin, it becomes painfully apparent how important he was to getting the rest of the receivers going -- especially in the cases of Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu, the Vikings' two leading wide receivers behind Harvin when he went down.
Jenkins had 26 receptions for 295 yards and a touchdown when Harvin was injured; since then he has four receptions for 29 yards with no touchdowns in three games.
Aromashodu had 10 receptions for 151 yards when Harvin went down; since then, one reception for 31 yards.
The one wide receiver whose production hasn't risen and fallen depending on Harvin's participation has been Jerome Simpson, who has been disappointing. He had eight receptions for 84 yards in five games before Harvin went down and has six receptions for 54 yards in the past three without him.
The Vikings' leading wide receiver since Harvin went out is Jarius Wright, a rookie who only got a shot to play because Harvin was injured. Perhaps because the other receivers have been so locked down by opponents' top cornerbacks, Wright has 11 receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown in the past three games -- the first three games of his career.
But the team's wide receiver corps might have finally bottomed out against Green Bay on Sunday. It was so bad that late in the game the Fox announcers pointed out that the Vikings were on the verge of doing something that hadn't been accomplished in 10 years in the NFL -- going an entire game without having a wide receiver catch a pass. The last time it happened was Dec. 8, 2002, when the expansion Houston Texans defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-6 with three defensive touchdowns. With under three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Simpson finally caught a pass for the wide receivers, but that doesn't take away from how ugly the receiving game has gotten without Harvin.
Had great receivers
When the Vikings had receivers such as Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Randy Moss, they won a lot of games.
When they had Sidney Rice, Harvin and Bernard Berrian in 2009 they nearly won the NFC championship.
But it's a different story now. The Vikings wound up catching three more passes following the Simpson catch in the fourth quarter, but like last week, when Simpson dropped three passes and other wide receivers couldn't make plays, the position remains a big problem for the Vikings.
Sure, you have to give quarterback Christian Ponder blame for missing receivers on some throws and, most important, for the two interceptions that led to scores for the Packers.
After the Packers' second-half kickoff went out of bounds and the Vikings started play at their own 40-yard line, Adrian Peterson took a handoff 48 yards to the Packers 12-yard line, but after another Peterson run that made it second-and-6, the Vikings had Ponder throw a pass, and it was intercepted by Morgan Burnett in the end zone. The score could have been 21-10 if the Vikings had scored. Instead the Packers drove and kicked a field goal, making it 14-13.
The Packers and Burnett got Ponder again when the Vikings were in good field position at the Green Bay 25 late in the third quarter with the score 20-14, picking off a pass intended for Kyle Rudolph. The Packers took the ball and drove 73 yards on 18 plays over 11 minutes and kicked a field goal. If the Vikings hadn't turned the ball over and allowed the Packers to score those six points, it's a much different game.
But like the TV announcers, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, said, the Vikings lost the game because of the lack of capable receivers and because of turnovers.
Rice wins for Seattle
It was interesting that while the Vikings receivers were doing nothing, Rice, the former Vikings wide receiver who was great in 2009 when they reached the NFC Championship Game, caught the winning touchdown pass in overtime in Seattle's win over the Bears.
From a rushing point, Peterson had another great day with a 82-yard touchdown run, the fourth-longest in Vikings history, and he accounted for 210 of the Vikings' 240 yards -- his third 200-yard rushing game in his amazing career, and first since his rookie season.
Speaking of rushing, the Packers chalked up their first rushing touchdown in almost two months when James Starks scored to help seal their sixth consecutive victory over the Vikings.
Yes, it's hard to understand the NFL and what transpires week to week.
Last week Packers MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a quarterback rating of 81.9, completed 14 of 25 passes for 219 yards with one touchdown and one interception while getting sacked five times and losing 27 yards in the Packers' 38-10 loss to the Giants. But on Sunday Rodgers had a quarterback rating of 98.0, completed 27 of 35 passes for 286 yards, was sacked twice for only 3 yards lost and again had one interception.
A week ago the Packers gave up 390 yards. This week the Vikings gained 240 just in rushing but totaled only 359 even though they should have been able to throw against a weak Packers secondary that was allowing 244 yards per game.
There's no question that the Vikings will never be in a better position to beat the Packers, who had their two best defensive players in Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews out of the game and who lost their second-best receiver, Jordy Nelson, and starting right tackle, T.J. Lang, in the first half. Lang's absence left the Packers to play undrafted rookie Don Barclay much of the game.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org