BY Art Thiel 07:45PM 11/17/2013

Thiel: Harvin’s return jolts Seahawks, Vikes, NFL

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.

Now we know why Percy Harvin was sought by the Seahawks. The man’s a blur. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

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.


YourThoughts

  • Diamond Mask

    Excellent article Art. “Pathological giddiness!” It is hard not to be smug. I’m trying.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. It’s a rare time for Seattle sports fans to be able to be smug. I’d like to caution people about it, but hell, they know better, and it’s a little too nanny-state for me.

  • Jeff

    love the “Usain Bolt of pro footblall” line

    • Hammtime

      Agreed

      • art thiel

        Thanks.

  • Daniel Luechtefeld

    Some of the best sports writing I’ve ever read.

    • art thiel

      Good taste, Daniel.

  • jafabian

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “hectoring” used in a sport column before.

    • art thiel

      C’mon, you have too. I use it occasionally because it’s a good word that isn’t trite. As you know, I’m not a fan of triteness.

      • jafabian

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “triteness” used in a sport column before.
        ;)

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    Great write up. One gripe: Percy Harvin didn’t beat the Vikes, the Seahawks did. Adrian Peterson being held to pedestrian stats beat the Vikings. Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller beat the Vikings. Percy Harvin made it a lot more fun, and has officially scared the bejesus out of the ‘Hawks remaining schedule, but give credit to a complete game of good execution by the whole team on both sides of the ball.

    • art thiel

      Of course you’re right. That coverage will be coming. But since the franchise made such an investment in him and had to delay the gratification, I thought it was worth it. Stay tuned.

      • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

        No argument. He did light it up, and we did wait a while. And after all you have all week to fill in the rest before we need to start discussing how they’ll attack the Saints.

  • Effzee

    I take back everything I said about Harvin the other day. I had never really seen him play. Why would I pay attention to the Vikings or Gators? Anyways, yeah…. Holy cow he is good.

    • art thiel

      That was a movie trailer. Wait until you see the whole show.

      • Bryan

        In analyzing Harvin and his value, I hope the Seahawks can use him occasionally to stretch the field and with intermediate routes, whereas it seems the Vikings preferred to make use of his uncanny ability to catch the ball behind the line of scrimmage and get yards, which is obviously very useful. I think he averaged almost 10 yards per gain on those types of plays where he was passed the ball behind the line. Absolutely incredible. Great article Art, you’ve been my favorite sports writer all my life. I’d like to know from your web guys why (when I click the facebook link) it takes me to Disqus… Will keep responding anonymously till it works.

        • art thiel

          Bevell had him a few times in the role you described. They didn’t throw to him, but his presence forced the defense to account for him and allowed Baldwin more room.

          Thanks for the good words, Bryan. Will send a note to the ops mgr.

  • Jay

    Oh man, that was so much fun to watch! Can you just imagine the reaction of the defensive coordinator for the Saints after watching Percy?…”Gah!! NOW how are supposed to beat them?? In Seattle. On a Monday night. After their bye. With Percy Harvin. Where’s my xanax?” Bahaha Fantastic article sir. I still can’t stop laughing uncontrolablly maniaclly.

  • ll9956

    Great article, Art. One of your best.

    Now then, with such a great performance, it’s maybe out of style to make any criticisms, but I’ll risk being sent to the waterboarding salon by saying that there were still too many penalties. The Saints are clearly superior to the Vikes and If the Hawks are to have success against them, they have got to quit with the !@#$! penalties! Also, Sherman, who has been superb all season, needs to not get burned again.

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Wait. You meant to write this about Sark, yes?

      The PIs, as always in the NFL, were wallops. Regarding Sherman, he wasn’t moving as well as before. I’ll be asking about the hip issue.

      • ll9956

        I’ll be anxious to see what the answer is. Didn’t know there was a hip issue.

  • zachs

    You probably can’t embed this video, but it really is worth following the link: http://www.seahawks.com/videos-photos/videos/Percy-Harvin-58-yard-kick-return/48d3ed8e-5438-47cd-bcb5-e205f26fd387

    WOW