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Updated: December 5th, 2010 5:45pm
Notebook: Sidney Rice finally shines while Percy Harvin stays home

Notebook: Sidney Rice finally shines while Percy Harvin stays home

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It didn't take long on Sunday for Sidney Rice to remind everyone what the Minnesota Vikings had been missing.

Rice matched his season total with four catches by halftime against the Buffalo Bills -- including two highlight-reel touchdown grabs -- and finished with team highs in targets (six), receptions (five) and receiving yards (105) in the 38-14 blowout.

"When he is covered, he's really not covered," said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who hooked up with Rice for all five completions after Brett Favre's early exit.

"With the first touchdown he caught, that was all him. I just gave him a chance to make a play. You don't have to be perfect with Sidney -- just give him a chance to make a play and you see what he did."

But this was the first time Rice had done anything like this -- anything like he did so often during his 2009 Pro Bowl run -- since his return two weeks ago from August hip surgery. He entered Sunday with only four catches for 76 yards and had seemed to be on a different page than Favre often in a loss to Green Bay and a win at Washington.

"After those first two games of kind of feeling his way, his confidence was extremely high going into this ballgame, and it showed in his play," interim coach Leslie Frazier said. "Our hope going forward is that we're going to see more of the Sidney we saw a season ago, because his confidence is high now."

Jackson threw his second pass to Rice on a go up the right sideline, and Rice elevated over cornerback Leodis McKelvin and safety Jairus Byrd to haul it in for a 46-yard gain.

Later in the first quarter, Rice again ran a go against McKelvin and made what looked like an impossible catch for a 31-yard touchdown over safety Donte Whitner, who tried to make a basket catch instead of elevating for the ball.

Officials initially ruled that Rice -- who fought with McKelvin for the ball all the way to the ground -- landed out of bounds. But Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier challenged and the call was overturned.

"I went straight to Coach and told him to throw the flag," Rice said. "I was laying down and my butt was in bounds when I came down."

Rice's second touchdown was a 6-yarder in the second quarter against cornerback Drayton Florence, who had him covered initially on a slant but lost him back to the sideline as Jackson held the ball forever in the pocket.

He only had one catch for 9 yards in the second half as the Vikings grinded clock and Jackson threw only five times. By that point, the damage was done and Rice had done his share -- even though he still doesn't feel he's 100% healthy.

"No sir," Rice said, "but I'm going to keep fighting and doing whatever it takes to help this team become more successful."

Harvin sits out

The Vikings needed all the production they could get from Rice on a day they deactivated three wideouts -- including leading receiver Percy Harvin -- and lost their emergency option to an early hamstring injury.

Harvin fell ill with his latest migraine-related problem during Wednesday's practice, visited the doctor on Friday and remained ill enough on Saturday that Frazier knew he needed to move forward with other options.

"I talked with him (on Saturday) to get a feel for where he was," Frazier said. "We've had a good week of practice with the guys that were in there. It's important for us at this stage to figure out what we can do to help Percy. I feel bad for him."

Frazier said he told Harvin to stay home rather than attending the game.

"I owe him a phone call," Frazier said. "Hopefully, when we can get together (Monday) with our doctors and with him, we'll have a better idea what's going to happen."

Greg Lewis (concussion) and Hank Baskett also were inactive, while rookie quarterback Joe Webb dressed as the No. 4 receiver but dropped out after injuring his right hamstring while blocking on a first-quarter punt return.

The Vikings went the rest of the way with Rice, Bernard Berrian and Greg Camarillo.

Peterson produces

The decision was "real close" on whether to suit up halfback Adrian Peterson -- but Frazier ended up making the right choice.

A week after spraining his right ankle, Peterson was shaky enough in a pregame workout that Frazier, head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, several assistants and even vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman had an extended debate on the field.

In the end, Peterson got the nod and rewarded the decision by rushing 16 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns.

"Adrian Peterson -- there's only one like him," Frazier said. "He's awesome."

After missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday, Peterson said he "was brainwashing myself this whole week, just saying in my mind, 'I'm going to play. I'm going to play.' On Saturday, when I came in and we had our walkthrough, I knew that I was going to be able to roll."

No start for Madieu

Tyrell Johnson started at safety and played the opening series in place of Madieu Williams, who said he was being disciplined for being late to the team bus after the Washington game.

"There's rules and regulations, and I'm aware of it, just like everybody else, Williams said. "You have to abide by the rules. I was late, and I received punishment."

Johnson didn't play again on defense, but he did make one of the game's pivotal play on special teams.

He ran through Jonathan Stupar on a first-quarter kickoff -- driving the backup tight end into McKelvin, who fumbled. The Vikings recovered and took a 14-7 lead on Peterson's 2-yard touchdown run five plays later.

The hit took a toll on Johnson, too. He limped off the field and didn't return because of an undisclosed injury.

Webb's debut shortened

Webb did get one touch before departing, returning the opening kickoff 30 yards -- the first time he'd ever returned a kickoff at any level.

"I was trying to pop it out," Webb said. "I seen a little crease, and I was just trying to hit it as hard as I can. They told me to run downhill and run to what you see. So, that was my first time ever running kickoff return. Now that I got a chance to see it and know how I can read it up, I'm sure the next one will be a lot different."

Frazier said the Vikings planned to use Webb more at receiver and indicated he might have played in the backfield, too.

DeGeare's chance

Rookie Chris DeGeare got his first NFL start in place of left guard Steve Hutchinson, whose broken right thumb kept him out of a game for the first time since 2002.

Frazier said Hutchinson did not undergo surgery but "I had a feel after Friday's practice that he might not be able to go. We tried some things on the side with him and didn't get the response we were hoping for."

DeGeare said learned of the decision on Sunday morning.

"I wanted to prepare as a professional, and I did," said DeGeare, the fifth-round draft pick from Wake Forest. "I think I did a pretty good job."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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