Wizards

Vikings bursting bubbles on screen pass to Harvin

201210071619587853285-p2.jpeg

Vikings bursting bubbles on screen pass to Harvin

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Percy Harvin took his place in the slot position, 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage and just off the right tackle. The Minnesota Vikings faced third-and-5 from the Tennessee 10, looking to put the game away late in the third quarter.

The Titans knew exactly what play they needed to be ready for, but Harvin still made it work for his second touchdown of the afternoon to further demoralize a struggling defense.

``They did a good job of trying to take it away, but he's Percy Harvin,'' Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said.

The ``bubble'' screen pass to the elusive, powerful Harvin is a favorite way for the Vikings to use their most versatile player. It also creates other opportunities for the offense, forcing opponents to brace for the ``bubble'' at the risk of ignoring another player. It's another example, too, of how an effective passing game in today's NFL doesn't necessarily mean a steady stream of long downfield throws to tall, traditional-size wide receivers.

According to research by STATS, Harvin leads the NFL with 329 yards after the catch, more than 80 percent of his receiving total of 407. The next closest player is Denver's Demaryius Thomas with 270. New England's Wes Welker is third with 264. Of Harvin's 38 receptions this season, 22 have been at or behind the line of scrimmage.

New England has been especially good at this, with one of the true stars of the slot in nine-year veteran Welker.

``You get the ball to your guys in space, and you see if they can make guys miss,'' Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said, adding: ``You can throw really a low-risk pass for sometimes a significant reward. Those are always good plays in the offense where you're not trying to squeeze it in to four defenders for a 7-yard gain. You throw it to a guy who's open. He makes a guy miss and gains 14.''

That's what happened last Sunday, when Ponder pivoted right and threw perfectly parallel to the line so Harvin could catch it with a running start and avoid the risk of a fumble if he was too deep. Harvin ran four yards backward in a half-circle - hence the ``bubble'' descriptor - before planting and accelerating forward to grab the ball in the air.

He made four Titans miss badly, the first one with a slick stop-start cut at the 12 and the second one with a similar hesitation move at the 10 before banging off a third defender at the 7. The last one who had a chance, cornerback Jason McCourty, whiffed at the 3.

``He runs the ball just as hard as Adrian Peterson. He's not worried about getting tackled. He's running through arm tackles. That makes him very dangerous for the fact that usually you don't see a guy out there at receiver that has that type of power and strength to stay up,'' McCourty said.

The Vikings sure aren't ambushing anyone when they call the play.

``You hear all the defenders calling out `bubble, bubble, bubble!''' Harvin said. ``It gets a little nervous, but actually I have full confidence in my blockers.''

The widest receiver, in Sunday's case Michael Jenkins, has to clear the man covering him out of the way. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who lined up outside of Harvin and has the most important job on this play, has to stay square in front of the defender he's trying to block to give Harvin the option of darting to either side. Also, the tackle on the side of the throw has to keep the defensive end from reaching too high so he can bat down the ball. Detroit did that with Cliff Avril the week before. The Lions were all over Harvin, actually, holding him to three catches for 22 yards. One of them went for a 2-yard loss.

``Rudolph, he comes to me repeatedly before the game or during practice, letting me know that I shouldn't have anything to worry about,'' Harvin said. ``Just run my bubble as fast as I can, and he's going to handle it.''

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he only called the ``bubble'' screen pass once against Tennessee, though the Vikings practice it often. They can run the ball out of the same formation or, if the defense overcommits to take the sideways throw away, use an underneath shovel pass to Harvin instead. The Titans were in a zone coverage for that play on Sunday, a scenario in which Ponder is not supposed to send the ball Harvin's way.

``Rudolph was so confident that he could dominate that block that he wanted Christian to throw it no matter what,'' Harvin said.

These days, at 4-1, the Vikings are confident in a lot of plays. Especially the ones involving Harvin.

``He makes big plays even when you have the numbers from a defensive standpoint to make the play,'' coach Leslie Frazier said, adding: ``They had the numbers and an individual as talented as he is makes a play out of nothing.''

---

AP Sports Writers Howard Ulman in Foxborough, Mass., and Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

---

Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

WASHINGTON -- Things were not looking good for the Washington Wizards to start Game 4. Honestly, there were some flashes back to the team’s performance in the first two games of the series against the Toronto Raptors.

That all quickly changed when John Wall did what he does best: drive to the basket.

Not only did Wall drive to the basket, he went and put Raptors' center Jonas Valanciunas on a poster.

Valanciunas is a 7-foot Lithuanian.

We get it John, it’s your city and we’re all your residents.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

WIZARDS DOMINATED GAME 3 BECAUSE EVERYONE ATE... LITERALLY

Quick Links

Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

capture_penguins.png
USA Today Sports Images

Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

The Washington Capitals are one win away from advancing to the second round of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

If they do beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6 or Game 7, a familiar foe awaits them.

The Pittsburgh Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday with a 8-5 win in Game 6. They will play the winner of the Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets series.

Because of course they will.

The Penguins have beaten the Capitals in the second round in each of the past two seasons. The series went six games in 2016 and seven in 2017.

Washington’s biggest rival has been a thorn in the side of the Caps throughout the team’s history. Washington and Pittsburgh have met in the postseason 10 times. Only once have the Caps come out victorious, in 1994.

Pittsburgh has won five Stanley Cups in their history and each time, they had to beat the Caps in the playoffs to do it.

The emergence of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin helped to reignite the Washington-Pittsburgh rivalry, but that too has been one sided. Crosby has won three Stanley Cups while Ovechkin has never advanced past the second round.

Before you despair, however, consider this. Coming into the season, no one knew what to expect from the Capitals. Expectations were low. Somehow, Washington managed to overcome the loss of several players in the offseason and managed to win the Metropolitan Division.

In a season in which the Caps have already defied expectations, perhaps this will be the year they finally get past Pittsburgh and advance to the conference final. Maybe? Please?

First things first, they still need one more win against Columbus. Game 6 will be Monday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

MORE CAPITALS:
How the Caps stymied Artemi Panarin
Nick Backstrom's Game 5 heroics, explained
Capitals' PK unit the series difference-maker
John Tortorella makes Game 7 proclamation