In the penultimate Unsung Hero article for the 2020 season, we focus on Minnesota Vikings rookie corner Harrison Hand. Unfortunately, Hand hasn’t received very much opportunity in Mike Zimmer’s secondary. Heading into the offseason, Minnesota will need to find ways to ensure Hand gets the chance to keep contributing on special teams and defense.
Harrison Hand’s Friday Performance
The play that’s going to stand out in people’s minds is the interception, and for good reason. When Hand picked off Drew Brees, the Vikings were locked into a back-and-forth game. The Saints had a mere three-point lead, so Hand’s play was huge. As we discussed on Notes from the North, Hand gave Minnesota the opportunity to get into their four-minute offense. Doing so successfully would have resulted in a Minnesota lead heading into the half. The offense failed to move the ball, but that shouldn’t detract from the reality that Hand gave Minnesota the upper hand (pun fully intended).
Overall, PFF was complimentary of his game. Hand received a 93.2 grade, the highest on Minnesota’s defense. Pro Football Reference indicates that Hand played sixteen defensive snaps and eighteen on special teams. He was credited with three tackles, the interception, and a couple pass deflections.
.@__harry22 will never forget this Christmas.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 25, 2020
Immediately after the Vikings scored their opening touchdown, Dan Bailey kicked a returnable ball to Ty Montgomery. Montgomery found an opening along the right sideline, but Hand was there to make the tackle. This took place around the 8:45 mark in the opening quarter. Not only did Hand save a touchdown, but he also saved Zimmer from fully losing it on the sideline. Can you imagine what a kickoff returned for a TD would have done to Minnesota’s coach? Best case it ruins his Christmas. Worst case, well, maybe we shouldn’t go there. It would have been bad.
At the 12:20 mark in the third quarter, Minnesota punted the ball after a failed offensive drive. Hand tackled the New Orleans returner immediately after catching the ball, holding him to no gain. Hand’s play put the defense in favorable field position, and a few plays later Hardy Nickerson Jr. got an interception. Minnesota scored shortly thereafter. Toward the end of the opening half and beginning of the second half, Hand gave the Vikings several chances to stay in the game.
In the past, we’ve speculated about the possibility of moving some of the depth corners to safety. Kris Boyd, for instance, is a player who could likely thrive as a safety. Harrison Hand may also be a sensible option for the Minnesota Vikings. He is a really good tackler who can sometimes get burned in coverage, though he is improving.
Regardless of what Zimmer decides to do, fans should feel encouraged about how Harrison Hand played against the Saints. He made the most out of his limited snaps, hitting on big plays that gave Minnesota a shot to win. It’s hard to ask for much more from a fifth-round rookie.