EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It took 12 seconds for Percy Harvin to validate the investment the Seattle Seahawks made in him and the six months of patience they showed in him.
Harvin collected the opening kickoff in the second half of the Seahawks' 43-8 Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos after one bounce and raced through the kick coverage for an 87-yard touchdown.
The first-half deficit that plagued the Broncos needed to be helped by a strong third quarter, but Harvin ensured that the Seahawks maintained dominance of Sunday's Super Bowl with his electrifying return.
Harvin played that way throughout the victory. It was the most Harvin had participated all season. His final stat line read 45 rushing yards, 5 receiving yards, and 87 return yards. That does not do Harvin's performance justice; he was crucial in getting the Seahawks their first Super Bowl victory.
On the Seahawks' second offensive play, he carried the ball 30 yards on an end around. He was a threat for the Seahawks' offense throughout the evening, forcing the Broncos to worry about a dynamic that had not been present throughout much of the season.
The Seahawks gambled on Harvin last spring, and they extended that gamble throughout the season. They dealt three draft picks, including their first-round selection, to acquire Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. They signed him to a six-year deal that could be worth as much as $67 million, and has $25 million guaranteed.
Harvin injured his hip during the summer. He returned for one game before his hip sent him to the sideline again. He came back for the divisional round of the playoffs before a concussion knocked him out.
He took 19 offensive snaps during the regular season. He took 19 more in the postseason before Sunday. The Seahawks paid him $14.5 million for that work. They never put him on injured reserve, clinging to the hope that Harvin would be able to contribute.
When Harvin was asked earlier this week if a good Super Bowl performance would salvage his season, he did not view it that way. He said he tried not to look at his 2013 season for the back-and-forth between the field and the training room -- mainly the training room -- but instead focused on the possibilities of the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks remained bullish on Harvin despite his absence. Both coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider touted Harvin's ability. When Harvin could not play in the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, Carroll pledged confidence that Harvin would return for the Super Bowl.
The kickoff return showed Harvin at his finest. The Broncos appeared to try kicking the ball in such a way that would limit Harvin's return. That's why it bounced at the Seahawks' 13-yard line when Harvin grabbed the ball out of the air. He fended off one arm tackle and ran around the rest, right up the middle of Denver's special teams. When he barreled through kicker Matt Prater's attempted tackle, Harvin had no Broncos in front of him and a 29-0 lead awaiting him.
He started high-stepping his way to the end zone at the 5-yard line, and the "12s," which Seahawks fans have come to call themselves, responded in outright glee.
The Seahawks had a 22-0 halftime lead, and the Broncos' hopes of a comeback required quick second-half scores. A stop on the Seahawks' opening drive was a near necessity. So Harvin's return was especially crippling. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning sat on the bench, staring at the video board in disgust.
The weakness of the Super Bowl champions this season was the lack of difference-makers on offense. That role was supposed to be Harvin's, and it's why the Seahawks brain trust surrendered assets and cash to acquire him.
They won 13 games and reached the Super Bowl without him. They played their finest game of the season with him. Harvin is only 25. The deal was made with the long view in mind. So if the Seahawks were this impressive in 2013 without Harvin, then the other 31 teams could have nightmares about what the league's best roster will be like with him healthy in coming seasons.
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