EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings put a lot of big plays on film Sunday en route to a defeat of the Rams, perhaps none of them bigger than Anthony Harris' forced fumble and recovery to stop Los Angeles from getting into the end zone.
Harris, who started at safety in place of an injured Andrew Sendejo, created the turnover at the Vikings 1-yard line and returned possession to Minnesota's offense. He spoke on Monday to "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen on KFAN's 9 to Noon and later to Twin Cities media members about Sunday's game and preparing for opportunities.
Harris saw Rams receiver Cooper Kupp make the catch past the first-down marker but turned his focus to keeping him short of the goal line.
"So I went in, I saw [Eric] Kendricks coming in for the tackle as well, so I figured we had two hats on him," Harris recalled. "I secured him with my left [hand], and then I just went for the punch with my right. And as I punched, I felt the ball kind of move a little bit, and then I just went for the rake, tried to rake it out. And as I'm pulling, I'm starting to see the ball actually start to come loose, and I'm thinking, 'I can actually take it from him.'
"And then it pops out, one bounce away, it bounces and hits Kendricks' leg, and then it bounced right back to me," Harris added.
The 26-year-old said that stripping the ball is something he and other defenders practice through the week during the full team period.
"Guys are raking at the ball to try to help us get better at getting the ball out. And it also helps our guys on offense be aware about ball security," Harris said. "And then every now and then during the week, we'll actually take a couple minutes during an individual period and work on stripping the ball out."
Sunday marked Harris' third start at safety this season – he also started versus Green Bay and Cleveland in Weeks 6 and 8, respectively.
The nature of a reserve role is not knowing when you'll be needed, and Harris said he's intentional about preparing each week as if his number will be called.
"It's about staying patient, staying positive, continuing to be a team guy, continuing to help the team in any way," Harris said. "But continuing to put myself in a position to stay ready if an opportunity comes up.
"It's just about getting the tendencies that the coaches give us, what they like to do, watching film, watching Sendejo and Harrison [Smith], those guys in there, seeing how they're communicating, how they're working together," Harris later added. "[Then if] I have to go in with one of them, we can kind of be on the same page a bit."
Harris is grateful for a chance to learn from veterans in the secondary.
When asked specifically about sharing a meeting room with Smith and cornerback Terence Newman, who has filled in at safety from time to time, Harris called it a great experience.
"Those two guys definitely have a big personality, make the meeting room light," Harris said. "But at the same time, they're two very, very good professionals – take very good, detailed accounts when studying film and in their preparation."
And specifically from Smith? Harris dials in on the older safety's tendencies before the ball is even in play.
"Just about his pre-snap, him being able to know what the defense is, knowing what the offense wants to do, and then trying to disguise [it] to maybe get them to play their hand early on," Harris said. "And then just going in to make a play once he diagnoses it."
Harris was quite the popular player following Sunday's game, garnering attention from media as well as receiving an abundance of texts and notifications on his phone.
But on Monday, Harris opted for humility over hype.
"That happened in the past," Harris said of the fumble recovery. "Now we just have to look forward to Detroit and try to put ourselves in a position to make plays."
The Vikings face an abrupt turnaround as they travel to Detroit on Wednesday to seek out a seventh straight win and defeat a division-rival team. The Lions have walked away with a win in the teams' past three meetings, and the Vikings know it's important to stay focused.
It doesn't allow much time to bask in the glory of defeating the Rams (7-3), who entered the game having won four in a row.
"It feels good to come in after a win. Guys' energy is high, but with a short week, we have to put it behind us fast," Harris said. "Come in, get in the film, check out the different details and see how we did, see if there's things that need to be corrected and then moving forward to Detroit."
According to Harris, it will take a full team effort to contain Matthew Stafford and the Lions on their home turf, and he's already back to the grindstone. Whether or not he'll receive a second consecutive start remains to be determined, but he isn't treating his approach any different.
"That's something that they'll probably discuss as coaches," Harris said. "Me as a player, I just go in like any other week, study the game plan, take advantage and take all the mental reps or physical reps that I can get during the week, and then just be ready."