SEATTLE — For the most part, Seattle’s 36-16 victory over Green Bay in the NFL season opener Thursday had a familiar look.
Dominating defense. A lot of Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson running the offense flawlessly.
But there was also reason to believe this team might be even better than it was last year.
That reason’s name is Percy Harvin.
With an entire offseason for Seattle to plan how to use him, and with a full healthy training camp for him to get ready, Harvin’s performance Thursday brought to the Seahawks everything they dreamed of when they traded three draft picks to get Harvin before last season and then signed him to a six-year, $67 million contract.
Harvin had 160 all-purpose yards on 14 touches, an average of 11.4 yards per touch. He ran the ball four times for 41 yards, caught seven passes for 59 yards and returned three kickoffs for 60 yards.
“When he’s healthy, they can’t stop him,” Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said of Harvin. “They can’t tackle him, and he’s too fast for them to catch him. He’s just a great player.”
Harvin has blazing speed, great hands, and enough strength to break arm tackles. He is truly a threat to break a long one at any time, and every time he touched the ball Thursday, the sellout crowd at CenturyLink Field sat up in anticipation.
The Seahawks used a variety of ways to get the ball to Harvin. He took handoffs out of the backfield while sprinting across the formation in motion. Wilson hit him with quick passes behind the line, slant routes from the slot, and a 33-yard reception on a deep out, Harvin’s longest play of the night.
“When you have a playmaker like Percy, you’ve got to get him the ball,” Seattle tight end Zach Miller said. “Design it up, whatever you’ve got to do. Get the ball in his hands.”
The Seahawks traded for Harvin in March of 2013, but he injured his hip during the offseason and appeared in only one game in the 2013 regular season.
Harvin made his mark in the Super Bowl with a kickoff return for a touchdown and a few other hold-your-breath plays, but Thursday he gave Seahawks fans an exciting look into the full range of possibilities.
“Before we found out about Percy’s hip last year, a lot of this stuff was going to happen last year,” Miller said. “It just gave the coaches plenty of time to think things up to get the ball to him.”
After the game, Harvin was clearly enjoying the moment.
“I’m just here to do what they ask me to do,” he said with a wide smile. “We are all just having run right now.”
He said it is fun but also difficult to have so many roles in a game plan.
“It’s definitely challenging, but I take pride in being able to play a lot of positions and handle the work load,” Harvin said. “The coaches do a great job of just making sure I’m on top of my game during the week.”
Like so many others in the Seahawks locker room, Harvin, a six-year veteran, said he believes the Seattle offense can be significantly better than it was last season, when it was good enough to win a Super Bowl.
“I think this is what everybody envisioned. We have so many playmakers, and to get everybody on the field, everybody healthy all at once, everything is finally clicking,” Harvin said.
“We all keep saying the sky’s the limit, especially with having such a dangerous defense that can give us the ball on the short side of the field at any given moment,” he said. “To have all this on the field and clicking all at once is so important.”
Clearly, Harvin is a key piece of that.
His talent leaves even some of his more articulate teammates searching for words.
“He’s a dynamic, dynamic player,” said Max Unger, Seattle’s Pro Bowl center and the unofficial spokesman for the offensive line.
“I don’t know what else to say. He’s pretty good.”