Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Can Percy Harvin break 49ers' tackles?
By Kevin Seifert
I've now seen the San Francisco 49ers dispatch two of the NFL's best offenses in successive weeks. In Week 1, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was reduced to dumping off passes toward receiver/running back Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley. Sunday night, they forced the Detroit Lions to prioritize their weak running game rather than challenge them with a much more potent downfield passing attack.
So you might be wondering: How will the Minnesota Vikings, whose offense has been among the most punchless in the NFL through two weeks, stand a chance Sunday at the Metrodome?
Here's a nomination for this week's optimist club meeting: Neither the Packers nor the Lions have a player quite like Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, who has elevated his reputation as a fearless and powerful open-field runner. The Packers are beginning to use Cobb in a similar manner, but I would suggest Harvin is more advanced in that role.
The Vikings have found a high-percentage way to get the ball in Harvin's hands and, in essence, let him do his thing. He has caught 18 of the 21 passes quarterback Christian Ponder has thrown his way and has gained an NFL-high 148 yards after the catch, according to our friends at Pro Football Focus (PFF). In addition, notes PFF, Harvin has forced opponents into a league-high seven missed tackles.
The 49ers, of course, won't feel compelled to play their safeties as deep as they have against the Packers and Lions. There is no reason for them to be threatened by the Vikings' downfield passing game, especially when their top two players -- Harvin and tailback Adrian Peterson -- can usually be found close to the line of scrimmage.
But if you're a fan of strength-on-strength matchups, as I am, you'll be interested to see what Harvin can do against a defense that Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan called "the best tackling team I've seen in recent memory."
If anyone can challenge that assessment via the passing game, it's Harvin. We'll see.