SEATTLE -- Much like in the regular season, Percy Harvin's return to action for the NFL playoffs was filled with promise, featured hints of athletic brilliance and was later sidetracked by an injury.
The talented Harvin missed all but one game of the regular season because of hip surgery and the lingering recovery. After missing the last five games because of discomfort in the hip, he was back on the field for the Seahawks on Saturday, hoping to provide a boost to a sputtering passing attack in need of another playmaker.
For about two quarters in Seattle's 23-15 win over the Saints at CenturyLink Field, he provided that presence. But with 1:28 left in the first half, Harvin's game ended prematurely. On second down and eight from the Saints' 8-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson was flushed from the pocket and began scrambling from the oncoming pressure. Harvin saw Wilson in scramble mode and headed for the end zone. Wilson fired a pass into the corner with Harvin attempting a leaping catch. But Harvin couldn't quite come down with the ball and landed awkwardly while taking a hit from Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins.
He stayed down on turf and was then taken to the Seahawks' locker room by trainers. When the second half began, he didn't accompany his teammates back on the field. His day was done with a concussion.
"That poor kid," coach Pete Carroll said. "He finally gets to play and he banged his head against the turf really hard."
It was the second time Harvin was tested for a concussion in the game. On the Seahawks' first drive of the game, Harvin tried to haul in a pass from Wilson in Saints territory, but took a nasty hit from safety Rafael Bush. The hit earned Bush a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness for targeting Harvin's head. Trainers helped Harvin to the sideline and then to the locker room, where he was tested for a concussion. He passed that first test and returned in the second quarter, breaking off a 9-yard run on an end around and making catches of six and 16 yards before being injured again.
"He was OK the first time, but the second one really rocked him," Carroll said.
It leaves Harvin's availability for Sunday's NFC Championship Game in doubt.
Harvin must meet NFL mandated concussion protocols this week and then practice to be cleared. He will be re-evaluated on Sunday. He is not able to return to any practice activity until he shows no symptoms from the concussion.
"Hopefully, he'll be all right," Wilson said. "I'm sure he will."
Bowie starts at left guard
Carroll's "always compete" philosophy carried over into the postseason. With the additional bye week from being the No. 1 seed, the Seahawks decided to open up competition on the offensive line, specifically left guard, where starter James Carpenter had struggled in recent weeks. It yielded a major change.
Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable decided to move rookie Michael Bowie into the starting left guard spot for Saturday's game. It was a bold move considering Bowie had never started an NFL game at left guard or any spot on the left side of the offensive line. Of Bowie's eight starts this season, seven came at right tackle and one at right guard.
"That was a classic competitive opportunity," Carroll said. "We just thought with the two weeks, if we gave him a shot he might be ahead at that job by this time. After two weeks of looking at him, we said, ‘Let's go for it.' "
Carroll told Bowie he'd be starting on Monday.
"It gave me a full week of preparation," Bowie said. "I just had to switch my brain over to the left side, and make that my focus."
Bowie didn't feel any added pressure playing a new position in a playoff game.
"You just have to relax and play football," he said. "The preparation was big for me this week. I wouldn't say I was stressing about it. I just put a bunch of time into it."
He gave himself a serviceable grade on his performance.
"I think I played pretty well," he said. "I couldn't have been a lot better just like any other game. But we won, so next week will be another chance for me to get better."
An almost complete gameSafety Earl Thomas showed why he is considered a candidate for the NFC's most valuable defensive player. Thomas racked up 11 tackles and knocked down two passes intended for Jimmy Graham in key situations. It was an MVP level performance to most, but not him.
"I was this close to playing a great game, a complete game in my eyes," he said. "All I had to do was bring in the interception at the end."
That interception should have come late in the fourth quarter with the Saints trying to mount a comeback. Thomas appeared to have picked off a deep pass from Drew Brees. However, teammate Jeremy Lane also had the same idea and the two players collided in their attempt. The ball bounced off Thomas' hands and into the arms of Robert Meachem for a 52-yard gain.
"You just have to tell yourself next play," Thomas said.
NFC championship ticket availability
Tickets for the NFC Championship Game will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday. Tickets will be available to fans with a billing address in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii and British Columbia and Alberta.
Fans can purchase tickets through Seahawks.com or by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000. All NFC Championship Game tickets will be distributed via Ticketmaster's TicketFast online printing. Ticket availability is limited and expected to sell quickly.
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