EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Percy Harvin juked a few defenders, blazed down the sideline and made it to the end zone.
That’s the dazzling playmaker the Seattle Seahawks had been waiting all season to see.
That’s the guy Harvin and his teammates knew he still was.
The dynamic wide receiver made his biggest impact for Seattle in the biggest game, helping spark the Seahawks in a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
“It’s just a big horse off my back,” a smiling Harvin said. “I finally was able to give my team something for four quarters.”
It certainly had been a while for Harvin, who missed most of his first season with Seattle dealing with a hip injury, and then suffered a concussion in the playoffs. But Harvin made it — finally — through his first full game, and made up for some lost time.
“It means everything to me,” he said. “This team, the way they stood behind me, the way they backed me up all year, it means a lot to me.”
Harvin had two runs for 45 yards, including a 30-yarder that helped set up Seattle’s first field goal. His 15-yard end-around jumpstarted the Seahawks’ first touchdown drive.
“I knew Percy was going to have a big game tonight,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “You look at him and he’s one of the best football players to play in the National Football League for four years.”
Oh, and there was also that pretty kickoff return to open the second half, an 87-yarder on which it appeared he initially struggled to field before taking off and giving Seattle a 29-0 lead 12 seconds into the third quarter.
“We were hyped up, saying we were going to come out and get a stop, ‘Let’s get a three-and-out,’ and then they’re like, ‘Boom!'” Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips said. “We got kicked in the chin.”
The Seahawks had been practicing the return all week — a “special” one, Harvin said — but hadn’t used it in a game all season. His blockers cleared the right side of the field, and Harvin found the gap and just kept running.
“The guys told me I was going to score,” said Harvin, who also had a 5-yard reception in the game. “I wasn’t just saying it to say it. Those guys believed that I was going to get in the end zone. When I broke through and I saw the end zone, I really couldn’t believe it.”
The Seahawks, though, were hardly as stunned as the Broncos.
“Don’t kick it to him, come on,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “He is a special guy.”
Seattle wanted to bring Harvin in so badly, it dealt three draft picks, including a first-rounder, to Minnesota in the offseason and then signed him to a six-year, $67 million contract. The Seahawks envisioned him as a difference-maker on offense and special teams.
But he missed the first 10 games after hip surgery, and played sparingly when he returned because of complications. Harvin came back for the playoffs, but hit his head on the turf in Seattle’s win over New Orleans in the divisional round and suffered a concussion.
He then sat out the NFC title game victory over San Francisco — a mere frustrated spectator, unable to help his team.
“Being injured all season,” Harvin said, “it took a toll on me.”
His teammates knew what it was doing to Harvin, and they urged him to take care of himself and get healthy. Because, they told him, they would need him to help finally deliver Seattle its first championship.
Harvin had just one catch for 17 yards in the regular season, and had three receptions for 21 yards and a 9-yard rush against the Saints before getting hurt.
“A lot of people got down on him because he didn’t play throughout the season, but I knew the type of person Percy was,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “He was going to fight back. He was going to get healthy and when he was finally healthy, he came out and showed out.”
During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Phillips said he and the rest of the Broncos planned to study film of Harvin from his Vikings days. And, to the Broncos, Harvin looked like that player again.
“He’s an explosive guy and that definitely played a major part,” Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “They got the ball in his hands and let him do a few things, and it worked for them.”
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