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After Further Review: Double Substitution

After Further Review is a deeper look at plays or stats the day after Vikings games...

Mike Harris knew Sunday that he'd be inserted into the game if Vikings tackles Matt Kalil or Phil Loadholt had to leave Minnesota's game at Buffalo because of injury.

Harris also knew that he hadn't played guard since Pop Warner when he was about 10 years old. The 25-year-old third-year pro, however, broke that drought when two Vikings offensive linemen — center John Sullivan and right guard Vladimir Ducasse — left the field after the same play in the first quarter.

The Vikings inserted swing man Joe Berger, a 10-year NFL veteran, with experience at the three interior line positions in Sullivan's spot, but Harris was the only other offensive lineman who was active.

Sullivan and Ducasse left the game after a 3-yard run by rookie running back Jerick McKinnon on a first-and-10 play from the Buffalo 27. The Vikings had just gotten the ball after a fumble forced by Chad Greenway that was recovered by rookie Anthony Barr. Minnesota opted to run the ball on its next two plays and kick a 40-yard field goal by Blair Walsh for a 3-0 lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter.

Harris said he was "shocked" by how quickly he found out he was going in the game. He said he tried to play hard from his first snap, learn on the fly and improve as the game progressed.

"It was loud, but it's just really recognizing the defenses," Harris said. "When you're playing guard, you've got to see where the linebackers are at and recognize that, but at tackle you've really got to concentrate on the defensive end at times, but as the game went on, I got comfortable and was just having fun. Wherever the team needs me to play, I'll be there."

Harris and Berger each played 51 of Minnesota's 64 offensive plays in their most substantial action of 2014 and helped the Vikings rush for 108 yards on 23 carries after entering the game, including 14 carries by McKinnon that gained 74 yards.

"We already lost our starting right guard (Brandon Fusco) for the year and then to have our center and our new right guard go down on the same play, it's tough," Loadholt said. "But, I think Mike Harris and Joe Berger stepped in and did a very good job for us and we'll just see what we have to do moving forward."

McKinnon was able to record the longest run of the season allowed by Buffalo (a 29-yarder on Minnesota's first play of the second half that topped Jerome Felton's 21-yard gain in the first quarter). The Vikings 158 rushing yards in the game were two more than what the Bills had allowed their three previous opponents (Houston, 37 yards; Detroit, 69 yards; New England, 59 yards) combined.

Sullivan must progress through the NFL's concussion protocol before he can return to action, and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Monday that Ducasse was still scheduled for further exams.

Harris said he "kind of liked" playing inside and will do his best to prepare if needed again.

"At tackle, you're kind of out there on an island," Harris said. "At guard, there's a lot of responsibility because you've got to recognize the defense and get up to linebackers in the running game. That's something I need to improve." 

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