MINNEAPOLIS — Percy Harvin found more ways to give Minnesota a lift. The Vikings are sure soaring right now.
Harvin pounded his way through Tennessee’s defense for one touchdown rushing and another receiving in helping the Vikings keep up their commanding start to the season with a 30-7 victory over the Titans on Sunday.
Harvin caught eight passes for 108 yards for the Vikings (4-1), who have given up a combined 33 points in winning three straight games. Christian Ponder threw his first two interceptions after 143 attempts without one this year, but he still finished 25 for 35 for 258 yards and two scores against the reeling Titans (1-4).
Adrian Peterson charged his way for 88 yards on 17 carries for the Vikings, a stark contrast to the 24 yards Chris Johnson managed on 15 tries, often stutter-stepping at the line, trying fruitlessly to find room.
Once again, the Titans couldn’t keep handing their franchise runner the ball because they fell too far behind. Matt Hasselbeck, starting in place of the injured Jake Locker, went 26 for 43 for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Most of those gains came near the end of the game with the outcome no longer in doubt.
Ponder didn’t complete a pass longer than 29 yards in any of the first four games, but the Vikings scored first on a drive fueled by the long throw that’s been missing. Ponder floated a perfect pass up the sideline to Harvin, who hauled in the ball in man-to-man coverage for a 45-yard gain.
Harvin took an inside handoff and pounded his way into the end zone four plays later from 4 yards out.
Ponder was picked off by Rob Johnson right in front of the goal line at the end of the second quarter and again by Jason Babineaux on the first play of the second half, and with a healthy two-possession lead he settled for low-risk throws for most of the rest of the game.
Except early in the fourth quarter, when he fired a 15-yard pass in double coverage that sure-handed tight end Kyle Rudolph hauled in to give the Vikings their highest score of the season.
After finishing 9-7 in coach Mike Munchak’s first season and missing the playoffs by a tiebreaker, the Titans have regressed in year two. They entered the game with a league-most 151 points allowed, and for all the good their two turnovers did their tackling was befitting of a team that was second-to-last in the NFL in yardage allowed through the first quarter of the season.
Harvin’s second score put the seal on this one, a highlight-reel catch and run to add to his already-impressive collection of video clips. Grabbing a quick swing pass at the line of scrimmage, Harvin used the same hesitation move twice to get overeager defenders to fly past him before bouncing into the end zone.
Antoine Winfield picked off an underthrow by Hasselbeck early in the second quarter at the Titans 34-yard line, setting up Blair Walsh’s first of three field goals.
The turnover came at a price for the Vikings, because rookie safety Harrison Smith was ejected after a tussle between the two teams at the end of the play. One of the officials tugged Smith away from the pile, and Smith responded by shoving him, drawing an automatic 15-yard penalty and the dreaded disqualification.
The Vikings put enough pressure on Hasselbeck the rest of the game that the absence of one of their best players in the secondary hardly mattered. When he did get the ball out, it often sailed high or wide past his receiver.