EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In walked Percy Harvin, still wearing his stained uniform and shoulder pads, and a crowd found him instantly.
It felt so strange and, at the same time, so natural. Isn’t this why the Seahawks acquired Harvin? To make a big play or two that would help them win the Super Bowl?
Harvin’s season has been disappointing for everyone involved. Yet there he sat after Seattle’s 43-8 win against Denver, wearing a hat declaring him a Super Bowl champion and having delivered the kind of performance that eluded him for so long.
What a long, strange trip it has been.
“It’s a big horse off my back,” Harvin said. “I was finally able to give my team something.”
What he gave is exactly the reason the football community salivated when Seattle acquired him before the season: A 30-yard run on the Seahawks’ second play. A 15-yard run later. And the fireworks of an 87-yard kickoff return to open the second half and drive a dagger into the heart of the wounded Broncos.
“I told him that this is what we brought him for,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “The playmaking ability he has is second to none. And when he touches the ball he needs to be electrifying. He told me all week he was going to do that. He had no doubt in his mind that he was going to make a play.”
But doubt has hung over Harvin all season, and rightfully so. He had to have surgery on his hip before the season started. He returned for just one game before aggravating the hip again. And then, for a third time, he made it back for the first game of the playoffs before a concussion sidelined him for the NFC Championship Game.
Harvin played in just three games this season. He caught five passes, had three carries and returned two kicks.
The trade that brought him to Seattle has been dissected all year. Would the Seahawks have been better off not giving up a first-round pick and boatloads of money?
General manager John Schneider brushed the question off Sunday before taking stock of Harvin in the Super Bowl: “His explosiveness was off the charts,” he said.
Harvin’s 30-yard run on an end-around early in the game stood out for two reasons. First, Harvin looked as explosive as advertised. He took off around the edge and nearly scored a touchdown. Second, it established right away that Harvin could be the knockout punch the Seahawks wanted.
“It just kind of showed that you better pay attention to where Percy is,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
The Seahawks unveiled an offensive arsenal that hasn’t been used much this season. They haven’t run a lot of end-arounds for receivers; they ran two with Harvin on Sunday.
They also rolled out a blocking scheme on kickoff returns they hadn’t used before.
Harvin’s 87-yard touchdown came on a counter right return, meaning Harvin started left before cutting back to his right.
Only here’s the thing: Harvin then cut the play back to his left again, splitting four Broncos with his speed.
“We were saving that one,” linebacker Heath Farwell said before giving the reason: “We hadn’t had (Harvin) back there yet. Percy is something special. That’s something you kind of save for the right opportunity, the right returner.”
In the biggest game of the season, in one of his rare appearances this year, Harvin finally delivered.
“It took a toll on me,” he said. “Being able to finish and give my team something back — I leaned on those guys so much to keep up my spirits and to keep me going. It meant the world to me.”