From both decrepit locker rooms at Candlestick Park on Sunday afternoon, a common thread of commentary held that San Francisco and Seattle had waged a duel that felt like a playoff game.
It had that look, too, one of those bare-knuckle afternoons where the whole game is decided by a play or two at the end, when the biggest stars can give a team the narrowest edge.
There could be a lot of those the rest of the way as the 11-2 Seahawks focus on winning the NFC West Division, earning home-field advantage, and slugging their way toward a Super Bowl appearance, for which they’re currently favored.
If only the Seahawks could add just one more dynamic, difference-making player.
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Oh, wait, that’s right, they’ve got one.
As the computer gnomes decipher the playoff scenarios with three games remaining, a critical element of the odds for the Seahawks relies on an unknown variable.
Percy Harvin’s hip.
The receiver/returner has played in only one game (Minnesota) this season after Aug. 1 hip surgery, and his impact was obvious and immediate.
But since that game, Harvin has gone back into the sort of mysterious rehabilitation-limbo mode that has been the norm this season.
We’ll have a status update as early as Wednesday. And if he can work his way back on the field, even in limited
capacity, it could further tip the field for the Seahawks down the stretch.
Yes, Seattle has been sensational in his absence, with only Denver matching the Seahawks’ win total. So, they might win the whole thing whether Harvin makes it back or not.
But remember his brief appearance against Minnesota, when he pulled in a fingertip 17-yard reception on a crucial third down and ran back a kickoff 58 yards.
How much difference would a timely third-down catch and a big kick return have made in the game at San Francisco? Huge. Possibly enough to swing the game in favor of the Seahawks, instead of it resulting in a 19-17 loss that prolongs Seattle’s questions on playoff positioning.
When Harvin went to New York for his hip surgery (performed by one of the Giants’ team doctors) in August, the prognosis held optimism that he’d be back to full speed for the return to the Big Apple, this weekend, for a game at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants.
But after the Vikings game, Harvin slipped back out of action, and hasn’t been active through a bye week and successive games against New Orleans and San Francisco.
Last week, coach Pete Carroll cited this as “a really important week” for judging Harvin’s readiness. “We think we’ve got a shot at it,” he said. “It’ll be kind of week-to-week as we go forward.”
Carroll has committed to a cautious, long-term approach to Harvin’s return.
The optimism after the appearance against Minnesota waned when he required a procedure Carroll called “some stuff to make sure that he was in relief of any kind of inflammation, and he’s in good shape now.”
Through much of the fall, Carroll has faced the questions and been limited, mostly, to answers that amounted to the one last week when he said, “We’ve just got to wait and see.”
The point that has been stressed all along, though, is that when Harvin is ready, he’s going to be back in action. They’re not trying to preserve a medical redshirt year. This guy represents a major investment and is a significant cornerstone of their plans for the future.
“He’s gonna be ready, here, pretty quick,” Carroll predicted. “And we’ll welcome him back when he gets in.”
Any column that goes way out on the limb and suggests that getting Percy Harvin back will be helpful should carry the byline: Captain Obvious.
But it’s worth a reminder that we should be getting some actual indications this week how quickly Harvin can be expected back on the field.
And that information can have a direct correlation to how likely the Seahawks will be to making another trip to MetLife Stadium — in February for Super Bowl XLVIII.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org @DaveBoling