EAGAN, Minn. -- Anthony Harris always seems to be in the right place at the right time on the football field.
The Vikings’ fifth-year safety proved it again during last Thursday’s 19-9 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Following a failed quarterback sneak by Kirk Cousins on fourth and short, Washington set up shop at the Vikings’ 34-yard line. With the game still very much in the balance for the Redskins, down 16-9 with 2:41 remaining in the third quarter, the first piece of doubt seemed to creep into the minds of the Vikings fans across U.S. Bank Stadium.
That is, until two plays later, when Harris found himself in the exact spot he needed to be to make a play, intercepting rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ pass after it bounced off the hands of receiver Terry McLaurin and into Harris’ hands. The Vikings’ offense marched down the field on the ensuing possession, adding three points to the lead and extending the game to two possessions.
“Initially I was thinking of going and making a play, break the ball up because I saw it was a little high and that he might have a chance to catch it. And then I thought it would be close for a tipped pass, and it ended up being a tip,” Harris said. “It was a good play. It took points off the board in that situation. Kept them from at least getting a field goal.”
It was Harris’ third interception this season. He had two in the season-opening victory over Atlanta. It’s his second consecutive season with three picks, and moves him into a tie for second place in the NFL in interceptions.
“I think Anthony is playing well. He’s a really smart kid who understands what we’re trying to do. I think he’s done a nice job in the running game, been good in the pass,” Mike Zimmer said. “Obviously that was a big interception” on Thursday.
Harris’ road to the starting lineup hasn’t been easy. He spent his first three years on special teams, getting occasional spot starts at safety because of injuries to others. But last season, Harris began to see an increased role at safety, starting nine games and playing 60% of defensive snaps.
This season, he has started all eight games and been on the field for 95% of defensive plays. As a result, he has set or is on pace to set career highs in almost every defensive statistic. He has tied his career best interceptions in a season (3), pass defenses (6) and is 10 tackles away from a new career-high in the category (46).
Heading into Week 8, Harris ranked as the No. 3 safety in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. That strengthens his case for a potential Pro Bowl selection, something he had been eyeing back in the preseason when he said, “I think I’ve got the ability to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player.”
For eight weeks, all Vikings cornerback Holton Hill could do was watch his team’s games on television.
“It was tough,” he said Monday.
The second-year cornerback served two four-game suspensions from the NFL for substance-abuse issues. He officially was cleared to return last Friday and is eligible to play Sunday at Kansas City.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Hill said. “I’m happy to back with the guys. I’m just ready to get to work.”
Hill, 22, was suspended by the NFL in April for four games for violating the policy on performance-enhancing substances. He got a second four-game suspension in July for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse.
It remains uncertain what his immediate role will be. Mike Hughes has been getting work as a reserve at outside cornerback. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander can play the outside but is the primary nickel back.
Receiver Josh Doctson, who has missed seven games while on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, could return to practice as soon as Wednesday. Doctson is eligible to be activated for the Nov. 10 game at Dallas and said last month he expects to be ready then. … Harris said the Vikings will be ready to face either Chiefs starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes or backup Matt Moore. Mahomes, last year’s NFL MVP, sat out Sunday’s 31-24 loss to Green Bay with a knee injury but could be back to face the Vikings. “We’ll look at them with (Mahomes) and look at them without him,” Harris said.