This sh-boom, sh-boom, life-is-but-a-dream football season is getting better all the time for the Seattle Seahawks.
On Sunday, while enjoying a sort of mid-term break that didn’t count as a bye, they learned their next opponent has lost its quarterback to a torn knee ligament. Sam Bradford is out for the Rams, backup Kellen Clemens is in, and although injuries never are cause for celebration, the talent gap between Bradford and Clemens is substantial.
It’s possible Clemens could step up and find inspiration behind a raucous home crowd, but not likely: When the Seahawks kick off Monday night in St. Louis, it’s almost certain the Cardinals will be playing the Red Sox in the World Series, a few blocks away, at the same time. The only way the Rams avoid appearing before a docile and distracted audience in baseball-crazy St. Louis is if the Series is decided in a sweep.
Meanwhile, when the Seahawks go back to work Tuesday, their cheerful spirits further will be buoyed by the chance to finally see Percy Harvin in uniform. Harvin’s recovery from preseason hip surgery has gone better than everybody expected.
Well, almost everybody. Defying estimations of a late-November target date for his Seahawks’ debut, Harvin, a hip-hop fan, insisted he’d be dancing in the end zone sooner rather than later.
There is no need to accelerate Harvin’s assimilation into the offense. St. Louis was beatable when Bradford was behind center. With Clemens? The Seahawks should be able to make 14 points hold up, and over the past year
– since Oct. 18, 2012, when San Francisco limited them to a pair of field goals – the only game in which Seattle has been denied 14 points was a 12-9 victory over Carolina in this season’s opener.
Caution is advised with Harvin. He’s capable of creating electricity every time he touches the ball, but also capable of creating suspense every time he’s tackled: Will he bounce back up? Or will he hobble to the sideline? Harvin sat out the last half of 2012 with an ankle injury, the first half of 2013 with a hip injury.
An Iron Man, he ain’t.
Still, there’s a reason the Seahawks guaranteed Harvin about $25.5 million – and surrendered a first-round draft choice – to acquire him in a trade with the Vikings. On those occasions, the huddle breaks with Russell Wilson at quarterback, Marshawn Lynch at running back and Sidney Rice and Golden Tate lined up wide, Harvin’s place in the slot gives the defense a fifth dimension to consider.
He’ll be listed as a receiver on the roster, but roster designations are flexible. Harvin’s talent is as a runner who catches the ball in some space to maneuver, and there will be times Harvin lines up in the backfield. (He’s made 107 career rushing attempts for 683 yards and four touchdowns. His average gain on the run is 6.4 yards.)
A backfield built around the dual-threat skills of Wilson, the relentless-attack style of Lynch and the anything-goes elusiveness of Harvin would be like nothing else the NFL has recently seen.
Speedy quarterback Kordell Stewart and plodding power back Jerome Bettis provided the Steelers with an interesting combination punch in early 2000s, and in 2005, the Falcons offered a handful when Michael Vick, always a threat to turn a broken play into a breakaway play, was quarterback in a backfield that boasted fellow 1,000-yard rusher Warrick Dunn.
But in terms of multiple threats, you almost have to go back to the 1947 Chicago Cardinals, whose “Million Dollar” backfield operated from a classic T-formation scheme of a quarterback (Paul Christman) two halfbacks (among a trio of Charley Trippi, Elmer Angsman and Marshall Goldberg) and a fullback (Pat Harder).
A few years later, the San Francisco 49ers assembled another “Million Dollar” backfield: Y.A. Tittle at quarterback, with John Henry Johnson, Joe Perry and former Washington Huskies great Hugh McElhenny – the Percy Harvin of his day – behind Tittle. That 49ers backfield distinguished itself as the first, and only, NFL backfield to put four players into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A similar distinction for the 2013 Seahawks is a ways off, as we’ve yet to see Wilson, Lynch and Harvin take the field together. But the mere idea of that is dizzying.
Each of three demands attention, but who does a defense cue on?
Wilson can run and throw. Lynch can run and catch. Harvin can run and catch and – Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is smiling right now at the thought – throw.
Voting for the Pro Bowl began this week, and between cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” defensive backfield figures to garner at least three spots on the NFC team.
But thanks to Harvin’s recuperation, and the versatility he’ll bring to an offense more known for the skill at the playmaking positions than its durability up front, Seahawks fans can anticipate thrills provided by another kind of backfield.
A quarterback with an arm as dangerous as his feet. A running back who strikes defenders with the force of a bowling ball on a lone pin. And, every once in a while, an electro-back who is a touchdown waiting to happen.
The Legion of Vroom.john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.