Breaking Down Percy Harvin's Super Bowl Plays for the Seattle Seahawks

Cian Fahey@CianafFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2014

Seattle Seahawks' Percy Harvin (11) runs from Denver Broncos' David Bruton (30) while returning a kickoff 87-yards for a touchdown during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Percy Harvin wasn't the biggest reason the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, but he definitely played his part.

The 25-year-old receiver finished the regular season with one reception for 17 yards. In his lone postseason game, he had three receptions for 21 yards. That wasn't the production the Seahawks expected from a player they gave up multiple draft picks for before the season.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll didn't just expect Harvin to be productive and stay healthy; they expected him to change how their offense functioned. Harvin was supposed to be the final piece of a Super Bowl-caliber roster.

He may not be able to claim that he was the difference between winning and losing for the Seahawks this season, but nobody can claim that he wasn't at his very best for the Super Bowl itself.

The beauty of Harvin's talent is his ability to produce in a variety of ways. Even though he only had one reception for five yards in the game, he still led the Seahawks in rushing and had more rushing yards than the Broncos as a whole.

Those rushing yards came on two early sweep plays.

When Harvin played against the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs, he didn't start. He did immediately come in on the second play of the game to catch a screen pass. That screen pass was stuffed by the Saints because they saw it coming, but the Broncos didn't see the sweep coming in the same situation.


Harvin initially lined up in a wide right position. Before the snap, he began motioning underneath the slot receiver before continuing behind the line of scrimmage. The key defender for the Broncos is the right edge defender.

Terrance Knighton is lined up as the right defensive tackle, but as the play develops it becomes clear that he is responsible for preventing Harvin from getting outside. Knighton never even looks at Harvin. Russell Wilson was able to hand the ball to Harvin behind the line of scrimmage while Knighton's eyes were in the backfield. This allowed Harvin to run right by him with the ball.


When Harvin was in open space, he had two immediate blockers. Those blockers gave him enough space for an unchallenged first down.


Harvin uncharacteristically hesitated for just a split second after getting to the second level. If he hadn't, he likely would have had a touchdown run because the deepest defender could barely get him out of bounds with a desperate dive.

That play went for 30 yards and set the Seahawks up in field-goal range.

At the end of the first quarter, Harvin had his second and final rush of the game. It was exactly the same play call, but this time the Broncos defended it better. The Seahawks were still able to gain 15 yards because they executed the play perfectly.


This time, the Broncos have fewer defenders on the line of scrimmage. Their linebackers are playing with more depth, and they have a natural defensive end, not Knighton who is a defensive tackle, playing outside the offense's left tackle.


When Harvin comes across the formation this time, the Broncos defenders are alert to his presence and multiple defenders recognize Wilson's handoff to him.

Robert Ayers is the key edge defender this time. He keeps his eyes on Harvin from the snap, but he isn't aggressive enough to try to cut him off. Ayers allows tight end Zach Miller to engage him and get enough of a block to spring Harvin free outside.


As Harvin turns the corner, he recognizes Doug Baldwin's position. Baldwin is outside of the defensive back, who is working to tackle Harvin. Harvin is very decisive, and he adeptly steps off his inside foot to take the defender further infield before attacking the sideline.

Other receivers have the speed to get to this point, but they may not have made it without the awareness to take that step so quickly. Furthermore, Harvin finishes the run more physically than any other receiver of his kind ever does. He blows the defender backwards to gain more yards.

In between his two runs, the Seahawks tried to get Percy the ball on screen passes. He dropped one when Wilson threw the ball slightly too high, but he made an impressive catch on the other.


Harvin is lined up as the behind receiver in the stack to the right. That stack is in the slot with another receiver stretching the defense horizontally out wide. The Broncos leave just three defenders to that side of the field, so there is plenty of space for Harvin.

The blocking is executed perfectly. The offensive line cuts down the left side of the defensive line, while the receivers outside are in perfect position to stop the defensive backs.

However, Wilson and Harvin's timing is slightly off.


Either Wilson missed the throw and slightly led Harvin too far down the field, or Harvin took too deep of a drop after the snap. Either way, Harvin was forced to make a very impressive reception.


Not only was the reception impressive, but so was his ability to maintain his balance and keep moving forward after the catch. Harvin ultimately has nowhere to go, but he again finishes the run with enough physicality to gain extra yardage.

Harvin didn't have a huge hand in building the Seahawks' lead. Instead, he sealed the victory at the start of the third quarter.

Because of the situation, losing by 22 points, the Broncos carried the threat of kicking an onside kick. The Seahawks anticipated this, so the Broncos kicked the ball downfield instead. However, they looked to drop it around the 20-yard line rather than kick it deep to Harvin.

This meant that Harvin had to locate the ball, get to the right spot and then react to the bounce of the ball before he could even look at how the coverage was setting up.

He didn't need to know where the defenders were, though, because once he got the ball, instinct took over.

Harvin might be the best runner in space in the NFL. Finding space quickly without hesitating comes naturally to him. That is exactly what happened for his kick-return touchdown.

The Seahawks tried to wall off a running lane for Harvin over the middle of the field. "We were calling for it all week," Harvin told the Denver Post. "We knew it was a good chance. We had put that on the film all year, and the guys did a heck of a job blocking. As soon as I caught the ball, it was open field."

Although Harvin ran through that running lane for the touchdown, he was too generous to his blocking. After Harvin got the ball, six defenders were in position to tackle him and two could potentially have caught him from behind.

Yet nobody did because Harvin is a very special player.


The receiver/running back/returner finished the Super Bowl with 137 total yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 175 total yards and just one touchdown. The Seahawks will expect much more from him over the remainder of his contract, but they definitely won't be unhappy with what he did for the team this season.

You have to be aggressive and take chances to be successful in the NFL. The Seahawks were aggressive when they traded for Harvin. Aggressive when they gave him a huge contract. When they didn't put him on injured reserve and when they gave him a big workload in spite of his durability issues.

Harvin may not be the biggest reason why the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, but his presence on the field epitomises the aggression and optimism that led the Seahawks to victory.


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