MINNEAPOLIS — Anthony Harris saw his moment and seized it.
Well, punched it would be more accurate.
The Vikings safety made a game-changing play late in the second quarter when he forced and recovered a fumble at the 1-yard line to prevent the Rams from taking the lead. The play preserved at tie at 7 in what became a 24-7 Vikings win.
"That was big time," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. "He made a heck of a play at the goal line.
"That's seven points coming off the board there," Smith added. "You never know what happens if they go up 14-7 at the time."
Harris' key play came with just over four minutes left in the first half. With the Rams facing third-and-4 at the Vikings 11-yard line, receiver Cooper Kupp caught a pass beyond the first-down marker and was looking for six points
But as Harris converged on Kupp along with linebacker Eric Kendricks and Smith, Harris saw his chance and ripped the ball away.
He then cradled the rock at the 1-yard line, denying the Rams the chance to go ahead on the scoreboard.
"I saw there was an opportunity to get the ball out. The first thing was to tackle him, the second thing was to try to punch the ball out," Harris said. "I saw the ball come loose, and I was able to recover."
"I practice it a lot — punching out the ball," Harris added. "Just keep up with effort and hope I get one."
Harris said he had no doubt that Kupp wasn't able to get through the gang of defenders.
"I knew he was short," Harris said. "When I punched, I knew he was short of the goal line so he was either going to be down, but then I saw the ball come out.
"I was just excited to get the offense on the field and get the momentum going the other way," Harris added.
The former undrafted free agent made his third start of the season in place of Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo, who was battling groin and hamstring injuries.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Harris' play shows the depth Minnesota has on defense.
"We've got some guys, it's good to see them get in the ball game," Zimmer said. We're going to need them down the stretch, that's just how this game works."
Added Smith: "It doesn't matter who it is, we all depend on each other and have a lot of faith in one another."
Harris also made a pair of other notable plays in Minnesota's sixth consecutive win.
Two plays before his forced fumble, Harris blew past Kupp's block attempt and forced Rams running back Todd Gurley to cut back the other way. Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly was waiting for a tackle for a 3-yard loss.
"Just watching film, we know they wanted to try to run the ball and be aggressive," Harris said. "I just tried to come down and be physical, stay in my gap and change the line of scrimmage. He had to bounce the ball out, and Weatherly stayed home and made a play."
Harris also showed off his coverage skills on the game's final drive. Although the Vikings win wasn't in doubt, he made a solid pass breakup of a potential touchdown pass that kept the Rams touchdown total at one.
Harris downplayed his play, and said he was just happy the Vikings moved to 8-2 in advance of a Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Lions.
"I'm just trying to be prepared," Harris said. "I think I can be a big contributor in this league and for this team.
"Sometimes that's on special teams, but today when my number was called on defense, I go out there and try to execute at a high level," Harris added.
That was evident Sunday, when Harris made a number of crucial plays, none more impactful than the game's only turnover.
"He played lights out today," said Vikings cornerback Terence Newman. "He's played good when he's had to … the sky is the limit for him."