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Harvin is X-factor for Seahawks
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Percy Harvin has touched the football all of six times for Seattle this season but he still might be the scariest obstacle for the Denver Broncos' defense when Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off in East Rutherford, N.J. on Feb. 2.
That speaks to just how explosive Harvin can be.
"That's a dangerous man right there," veteran Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said. "He can change the game if you allow him to. I remember playing him when he was in Minnesota, and he's one of the most explosive guys coming off the ball."
One day an Ivy League institution may commission a study on wide receivers and diva-like behavior. Until then we are left to our own devices in trying to figure out why enigmatic talents like Harvin act the way they do.
The easiest answer, of course, is money, and while the almighty dollar certainly contributed to Percy's problems in Minnesota, it can hardly be blamed for his petulant behavior dating back to his college days at the University of Florida.
Harvin has always been high-maintenance and the upkeep finally became too steep for former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier when Harvin blew up at him during a Minnesota loss at Seattle back on Nov. 4 of 2012.
Interestingly enough, Pete Carroll was on the opposing sideline that day, piloting the Seahawks and watching Harvin's immaturity in living color. It obviously wasn't enough to dissuade the Seahawks' mentor from rubber-stamping Harvin's arrival in the Pacific Northwest, however.
The Vikings got Seattle's first-round pick in 2013 -- No. 25 overall, which turned into promising cornerback Xavier Rhodes, along with two other picks in the deal. The Seahawks in turn got a superlative playmaker and gave him a six- year, $67 million deal to keep him happy.
If football were played in a vacuum, this would have been a no-brainer for Seattle. Harvin is a a top-tier talent and one of the best pure playmakers in all of football, a YAC (yards after catch) machine and an absolute field- tilter as one of the game's best pure kickoff returners.
But the Seahawks not only acquired Harvin, they also got his reputation. They snared the moody, unpredictable man who is prone to migraine headaches. And they got the undersized, injury-prone guy who never takes his foot off the gas.
Sure enough Harvin had hip surgery on Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum and played in only one regular-season game, flashing his explosiveness against his old team with a 58-yard kickoff return and a 17-yard reception.
But, Harvin aggravated his surgically repaired hip against the Vikings and didn't make it back on the field until the Seahawks' divisional round playoff game against New Orleans only after Carroll threatened to shut him down for the year with an injured reserve designation.
Harvin didn't last long in the Saints game and was out again after being concussed late in the first half. After missing the NFC Championship Game, he was cleared to play in the Super Bowl last Thursday.
"It's been a roller-coaster, but also a blessing," Harvin said of his ill- fated season. "I wouldn't take anything back that has happened this year. It's made me a stronger person."
A stronger person who could turn into the X-factor in the Super Bowl.
When healthy Harvin is a "Where's Waldo-type" of player with the ability to line up all over the field and hurt the opposition from his natural slot position, outside the numbers or even from the backfield. He significantly bolsters what is considered to be a pedestrian Seattle wide receiver corps.
"It's definitely been frustrating, not only for me, but all a lot of people, like my teammates not knowing if I'm going to be able to practice," Harvin said. "That's all over with now and we get the chance to play for the Super Bowl, so it's all in the past."
It's unlikely the old Harvin, who was a highlight-reel in Minnesota, will show up in North Jersey on Feb. 2 but the mere possibility means he must be accounted for and that presence could make things much easier for the other Seattle playmakers.
"I really don't know," Harvin said when asked about how confident he is in his hip. "I felt pretty good, good enough to play in the game. I'll leave it at that."
So how big a part will Percy play?
"I'll be in the game plan," he said. "How much we'll have to wait and see. It's just good to be back out there with my teammates."
Teammates who have brought the Seahawks to the precipice of the franchise's first Super Bowl title with just six touches from Harvin, something the dynamic receiver is keenly aware of.
"I can't even put it in words," Harvin said. "Guys like (cornerback) Richard Sherman, and also (safety) Kam Chancellor came and talked to me a bunch of times. The coaches, the whole building, even the cooks, were giving me love and kept me pushing. They've all been there for me."
Now it's time to be there for them.
"I'm a football player and I'm confident in my game. Things happened that I couldn't control. I didn't look at money or anything to that degree. I just wanted to get back on the field and help my teammates."
"I don't know how they are going to use him," Bailey added. "We don't have a lot of tape on him, if any, but they are going to use him. You don't have a weapon like that and not use it."
Below is a capsule look at the offense of the Seattle Seahawks:
QUARTERBACK: Russell Wilson hasn't played all that well in recent weeks but it's hard to overlook what might be the best two-year resume in NFL history. His 24 wins as a starter over two seasons (27 if you count the postseason) are the most among signal callers since the 1970 merger as are his 15 home wins (17 when including the playoffs).
A dual-threat who can hurt you with his arm and legs Wilson is at his best when extending plays with his mobility, possessing the innate ability to keep his eyes downfield instead of dropping them like most QBs. That said, he remains an unfinished product and is basically just a high-low, two-read QB from the pocket, instead of the A-B-C-D progression machine that is his counterpart in this game, Peyton Manning.
Wilson is one of only four players to pass for at least 20 touchdowns in each of their first two seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, Manning and Andy Dalton, and is also just fourth since 1970 to record a passer rating greater than 100.0 during their second season. His 100.6 career passer rating ranks first in Seahawks history and his 101.2 2013 season broke his own team record set in his rookie campaign (100.0).
"At the end of the day, it comes down to just executing your plays and being focused," Wilson said. "We want to win a Super Bowl and we want to be the first ones to win it in our organization and that's kind of our mindset. We believed that we could get, we're here and now it's time to go out there and just play 1 and 0."
Backup Tarvaris Jackson offers some of the same physical abilities of Wilson but none of the feel.
RUNNING BACKS: A strong running game opens up play-action for Wilson, who, like most young quarterbacks, is best when making the high-low read and getting the ball out quickly. Marshawn Lynch is the bell cow and the only player in the NFL to rush for over 1,000 yards and score 10 rushing touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. Lynch set a career-high with 14 total touchdowns this season and leads the NFL with 39 total touchdowns since 2011.
"If they get the running game going, they can really get going," Broncos LB Danny Trevathan said when discussing the Seahawks. "They play within their scheme. They play with the people that they have. They use them to their strengths. We've got to be prepared for this. This is a powerhouse. They can get going anytime. We've got to prepare for everything."
A bruising, move-the-chains type, Lynch can quickly turn arm tackles into turnstiles.
"With such a strong back, a sleek-footed back, a quick back and somebody his size -- you have to gang tackle," Broncos safety David Bruton said when talking about Lynch. "You can't just leave it up to one guy. We have to try to get 11 hats to the ball all the time."
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Harvin adds a big-play threat to an underrated and capable group. Golden Tate posted career-highs in both receptions (64) and yards (898) in 2013 and is a dual-threat as a returner, amassing 585 punt return yards. Doug Baldwin had 50 catches in the regular season and has been Wilson's top outside the numbers threat in the playoffs, while Jermaine Kearse is a solid third- option in the downfield passing game.
"Our mentality is that we want to run the ball obviously, dictate the pace of the game and the ground game and then make our big plays on the outside when we get our opportunities to," Baldwin said. "Offensively, we have to take advantage of our opportunities and score points when we can."
Tight end Zach Miller is one of the few true two-way tight ends left. He has good functional speed to run routes, along with outstanding body control and a good feel on when to sit down in the zone. He's not a mauler as a blocker but he knows how to get his body in position to block linebackers and walls off very well.
"Probably the best thing that I can say about all of our receivers is that they're football players," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "I think that really sums it up because we ask them to do a lot of stuff, whether they're returning kicks, whether they're gunners on special teams, whether they're catching balls for us, whether they're blocking.
"Doug (Baldwin) would tell you that he's playing tackle as you saw on one of our backed up plays, he's down there blocking (49ers edge rusher) Aldon Smith. So we really ask a lot of those guys and they really don't flinch, they don't blink, they just do whatever is asked of them. When they need to come up with a big play, they come up with a big play, if they have to block they'll do that, it's just really a great bunch of guys to work with."
OFFENSIVE LINE: The offensive line is considered the weakness of the Seahawks offense although left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger are certainly well above average players at their respective positions.
The same can't be said about the rest of the group which includes guards JR Sweezy and either James Carpenter, Paul McQuistan or Michael Bowie, as well as right tackle Breno Giacomini.
"I don't play much left guard; I'm kind of a skill player myself," Carroll joked when asked about the uncertainty at that position. "You'll wait and see as we turn it out. Guys have been competing at it, we like the way it went last week (Carpenter), so it's more likely to be like that than it was a couple of weeks ago (Bowie)."
01/28 09:11:20 ET
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