Harvin’s kickoff return electrified not only the Clink crowd but the Seahawks themselves, illuminating a future over the next couple of months that looks better by the week.
After a year away, after hectoring coach Pete Carroll all week, after No. 1 kick returner Jermaine Kearse went down with a concussion, after the Minnesota Vikings scored to trail only 17-13 with 58 seconds left in in the first half, Percy Harvin won his argument Sunday afternoon. Grinning, he ambled stealthily along the sideline before moving into position. Word swept along the Seahawks sideline. Every single player rose up and crowded forward.
The Vikings could have deflated the drama by kicking short. Instead, they kicked deep. As the ball rose, so did every one of the 68,325 customers at the Clink. They wanted to get a good view of their money’s worth. The Usain Bolt of pro football was in his metaphorical blocks.
Harvin drifted to his right, grabbed the ball five yards deep in the end zone, ignited the jets and bent imaginations. Apparently that is a super power.
“All of a sudden,” said Carroll, “the blocking was perfect. I don’t know how that happened.”
Vikings defenders seemed to fall away and Harvin seemed to run faster than anyone who has ever put on an NFL uniform. As the stadium started to shake, a thought occurred that he was on fast forward and the rest of us were one dimension behind.
Asked afterward if the same startling observation was shared by players standing on the sidelines, WR Doug Baldwin said, “No,” then he grinned: “That’s because we saw the same thing in practice this week.”
After 58 yards, the Vikings finally managed to close the gap and knock down Harvin, their old teammate who was traded in March, but not until he reached the Minnesota 46-yard line. Adrenalized by a glimpse of their future, the Seahawks offense took the field and needed just five plays and 38 seconds (no timeouts) for a touchdown. The Vikings went into the halftime locker room down 24-13 and knew they were dead Norsemen walking.
Rules required the second half to be played, which caused the game to be recorded as Seattle 41, Minnesota 20. But it was over the moment Harvin was unleashed, making euphoric his teammates and demoralizing his foes. So much so that in kicking off to start the second half, the Vikings left it short, preferring to give the Seahawks the ball at the 30 rather than have Harvin create another depressurizing vacuum that might pull off their helmets.
At 10-1, the rest of the NFL landscape felt the cold breeze.
And to think, he had to cajole his way onto the field.
“I’ve been having some of the teammates yell at him (in practice this week), some of the coaching staff,” said an ebullient Harvin, well recovered from his Aug. 1 hip surgery. “But he came to me before the game and he let me know that he didn’t feel real comfortable with me doing it this game. But I kept drilling him and drilling him.
“When Kearse went down, I still asked him. He still wasn’t too sure about it. I don’t what happened, who did what, but then he just ran and shouted at me, ‘Get your tail in there!’”
Averting the bonehead coaching move of the year award, Carroll was aglow in what must have been close to a spiritual experience as Harvin whooshed upfield.
“I’m really fired up that he got in the game,” he said. “He wanted to do something, and he did, and that was great.
“He’s an extraordinary football player, but he’s a better competitor. And that’s what we love about him. Adding that guy’s mentality to this football team . . .we’re very fortunate to have him.”
If the description is even half-accurate, the Seahawks appeared to have taken on serious ordnance in mid-flight. They had their two starting tackles and starting center returned Sunday as well, then saw rival San Francisco fall to New Orleans Sunday, making their lead in the NFC West almost insurmountable with five regular-season games remaining.
Heading into the bye week, the Seahawks’ major threat would seem to be a viral case of pathological giddiness. Particularly with the advent of Harvin.
“It’s hard to stop him because he’s so fast, so electric, so physical,” said quarterback Russell Wilson, who nearly had to be tethered to keep from floating away. “He runs an easy 4.3 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), he can make guys miss, but also wants to be physical with you. It’s tough for defensive players to figure out how to cover him.
“He can do it all, and that’s what makes him one of the best players in the National Football League.”
Harvin’s trials to get back on the field were even more arduous than previously believed. During his post-game interview, he revealed that in addition to the hip surgery and the ankle injury in Week 9 a year ago against Seattle that wiped out the rest of the 2012 season, he had an appendectomy three weeks after the ankle injury, and a tumor was discovered on the appendix.
“There was a lot built into this game, not just my hip,” he said. “It was good to get out there and be with my teammates again. Hats off to the organization and all my teammates. They did a heck of a job keeping me mentally into the game.
“To come to a team that is already moving, it was perfect for me to come and not try to feel like I had to be the savior, or do something out of the ordinary. I could simply rehab and the team kept winning, kept winning, kept winning.”
So they have. The temptation for Seahawks fans is to play the next five games all at once, and start plotting playoff matchups. What the hell — go ahead. That’s the privilege and pleasure of being a fan. The job of coaches and players is to stick to the cliches: One game at a time.
That job in Seattle just became a little easier.