On their first offensive play of 2014, the Seattle Seahawks made a statement as loud as the crowd Thursday at CenturyLink Field.
They got the ball to Percy Harvin, their one-man Electric Company. Although Russell Wilson’s short pass to Harvin picked up only 4 yards against the Green Bay Packers, the immediate identification of Harvin as a target told the world everything it needed to know about how the Seahawks plan to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
This is a different team than the one that opened last season with a grind-it-out-and-wait- for-a-late turnover victory at Carolina. Sure, the fundamental things still apply — a power ground game on offense, a defense with a pitch-perfect blend of speed and attitude — but the Seahawks have added an X-factor.
As in: X-plosive, X-citing, and X-hilarating.
What made Harvin so problematic for the Packers is that he was a threat for any situation. Third-and-one on the opening drive, ball at the Seattle 44, the 2013 Seahawks likely would’ve asked running back Marshawn Lynch to pick up the first down.
The 2014 Seahawks? Wilson hooked up with Harvin for a 4-yard gain that moved the chains. Moments later, Harvin moved the chains again by converting a fly sweep into a 13-yard gain, setting up the Steven Hauschka field goal that gave them an early lead in their convincing 36-16 victory.
Before the game, fans outside the stadium were treated to free performances by Soundgarden and Pharrell Williams, the “Happy” singer with the slick dance moves. By the time the sun set, Harvin and his quicksilver feet embodied an old Beatles song: “Here, There, and Everywhere.”
He gained 59 yards on seven catches, and 41 yards on four carries, and 60 yards on three kickoff returns — stats made all the more impressive by coach Pete Carroll’s decision to go into a clock-killing mode after opening up a 29-10 lead in the fourth quarter.
We saw mere snippets of Harvin last season. He returned from hip surgery for a mid- November game against Minnesota, catching one pass for 17 yards and returning a kickoff 57 yards before he was back on the shelf, where he remained until the Super Bowl.
But until Thursday, Seahawks fans never had been able to appreciate the full scope of Harvin’s comprehensive talents.
“He was fantastic,” Carroll said. “Gosh, he’s such a good football player — such an explosive athlete, and so tough.”
There was a lot for Carroll to like about the victory besides Harvin, to be sure. Containing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 189 passing yards and one touchdown suggests the defense still can be dominant without veteran ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.
The offensive line — essentially the same group that started the Super Bowl, with rookie Justin Britt replacing Breno Giacomoni at right tackle — asserted itself against a Green Bay front assembled under the premise that quickness is more important than size.
It was hard to tell if that thinking worked Thursday, because Harvin was quicker than anybody.
“To add Percy Harvin, who didn’t really play last year, gives us an explosive mentality,” said Wilson, who pointed out the pick-your-poison quandary the opposition figures to face against the Seahawks this season.
Defenders can’t focus solely on Lynch, because Wilson will torch them. But neither can they devote all their attention to Wilson and the passing game.
Meanwhile, Harvin is a threat to run the ball and a threat to catch it, and don’t be surprised if Hawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell eventually dials up a play requiring Harvin to throw the ball.
Here, there, and everywhere, Percy Harvin is the reason why the 2014 Seahawks might be better than ever.