By Dave Wyman
With the amount of attention and coverage elite NFL players tend to attract, it’s rare when someone lives up to his hype. But after watching Percy Harvin play just 16 downs in the Seahawks’ 41-20 victory over Minnesota, Harvin is as advertised.
Along with his one catch and long kickoff return Sunday, Percy Harvin affected plays even when he didn’t get the ball. (AP)
It took just six plays to sell me on the idea that Harvin can bring a new level of explosiveness to this team. He proved that in a variety of ways, which I call The Percy Harvin Effect.
1) With 1:29 left in the first quarter, Harvin lined up in a slot formation with Doug Baldwin flanking him on his right. The Vikings were playing man defense with a single safety over the top. Although quarterback Russell Wilson did a great job of looking the safety off to his left, it was Harvin beating his man-to-man coverage cleanly that caught the safety’s attention. Once he bit on Harvin’s route, Baldwin was able to get open more easily on the outside and beat the defender for a 44-yard reception.
2) When Marshawn Lynch broke free on a 23-yard run, I wasn’t surprised to see Zach Miller, J.R. Sweezy and Breno Giacomini destroy Vikings defenders with devastating blocks. But I was surprised to see the wispy Harvin engage cornerback Josh Robinson and drive him 10 yards downfield. He used perfect form to execute the block by first engaging Robinson and then working his feet and hips around to get in front of him in a way that would make offensive-line coach Tom Cable proud.
3) Although the play was offset by a Seahawks penalty, the pass-interference call that Harvin drew on what would have been a 50-yard gain in the second quarter is a sign of things to come. Again, the defender was beaten so badly he was forced to foul Harvin on a play that would’ve been a sure completion. With Harvin’s speed, I can see that happening again sometime soon.
4) His biggest play of the day was his stabbing catch for 17 yards and a first down in the second quarter. It was crucial for two reasons: First, the Seahawks were facing a third-and-10 after a bizarre play call on second-and-10 – a Robert Turbin lead play off-tackle that was stopped for no gain. Second, the score was tied at 10 at that point and the Vikings – who had surely watched the Tampa Bay film from two weeks ago – were beginning to feel like they were in this game. Harvin’s spectacular grab pumped life into the drive and four plays later, Seattle scored the go-ahead touchdown and never looked back.
More coverage of Seattle’s Week-11 victory over the Vikings at CenturyLink Field.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O’Neil: What We Learned||• O’Neil: Less is more for Wilson, Seahawks||• Henderson: Harvin shines in Seahawks debut||• Pete Carroll: 10-1 Seahawks only getting better|
5) Even with kick returner Jermaine Kearse sidelined with a concussion, I’m sure Harvin was surprised when head coach Pete Carroll told him to take the field for a kickoff return just before the half. Harvin had been campaigning for the job all game but Carroll wasn’t warming to the idea. As Harvin put it, when Carroll told him to get in there, he replied, “For real?” Harvin took the kickoff into his arms with a professional ease that was impressive and exploded for a 58-yard return that electrified the 12th Man at CenturyLink Field. That lead to a scoring drive just before halftime, with Wilson hitting Baldwin for a 19-yard touchdown that made it 24-13, Seattle.
6) If Harvin’s 58-yard return was the cause, the Vikings’ next kickoff was the effect. In order to keep the ball out of Harvin’s hands, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh hit a feeble pooch kick that Michael Robinson fielded on the 30 and returned to the 35, giving the Seahawks great field position to start off the second half.
These six plays accounted for a little over 200 yards – some tangible, some intangible. Whether Harvin touches the ball, draws a defender, throws a block or forces an opponent to adjust to him, he’s having a significant effect on the game that is unique. Not bad for just 16 plays. If this is any indication of what the Seahawks can expect from him, this team has yet another valuable playmaker on the roster.
Most importantly, Harvin fits in whether he gets the ball or not. He’s willing to do the dirty work of blocking, attracting a defender or forcing a kickoff away from him. On a team with great chemistry that is already winning, that is the most vital effect he can have.