ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Percy Harvin has touched the football just six times as a Seattle Seahawk and played only 40 snaps in two games this season. Yet his expected return for Super Bowl Sunday after passing the league's post-concussion protocol is a potential game-changer for the Seahawks offense.
The concussion he suffered against the Saints on Jan. 11 piled on what had already been a frustrating season for the fleet five-year veteran. His earlier hip injury, which cost him all but one game this season, is the one to which the Seahawks can point as evidence of the adversity they endured to arrive at this point.
But unlike most of the Broncos who missed lengthy spells -- Von Miller, Champ Bailey, Ryan Clady, Derek Wolfe, et. al. -- the Seahawks don't really know what life with Harvin is like, having acquired him from the Minnesota Vikings last offseason.
That's what makes Harvin and how he could be used so difficult to scout.
"I don't know how they're going to use him -- we don't have a lot of tape on him (with the Seahawks), if any," said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. "But they're going to use him. You don't have a weapon like that and not use him."
So it's worthwhile to reach back into the archive of Vikings games to see how he can be used. But the Broncos need to look no further than their own film to see Harvin at his most explosive.
Broncos coaches and players who were with the club in 2011 know first-hand how explosive Harvin can be. When they faced Harvin and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13 of that season Harvin racked up a career-high 175 yards from scrimmage, including touchdown catches of 52 and 48 yards.
On the first of two Harvin scores that day, he pushed cornerback Chris Harris Jr. down six yards past the line of scrimmage, caught the pass from Christian Ponder in the open field, and ran the final 44 yards after the catch for the score. The play should have drawn a pass-interference flag, but none was thrown.
Harvin's second touchdown that day -- a 48-yard catch-and-run on second-and-10 in the fourth quarter -- is more instructive. Minnesota lines Harvin up on the weak (right) side, opting to overload the strong side with three tight ends.
Harvin starts his route off the snap and quickly cuts inside, two yards from the line of scrimmage. As he cuts left, the three tight ends fan out to the left, right and down the seam. In the confusion, the Broncos lose track of Harvin, who at this point is closer to the line of scrimmage than any tight end. With the tight ends drawing coverage, the Broncos react too late to Harvin's crossing route, and when he gathers the ball just outside the left hashmark at the 46-yard-line, no Denver defender is closer than eight yards. Given this kind of open field, he has time to plot his route and meander through the secondary before galloping across the goal line.
When healthy, there are few -- if any -- players more dynamic in the open field than Harvin, something veteran Broncos obviously know well. His return is another factor that makes this matchup compelling -- and difficult to predict.
"That's a dangerous man right there," said Bailey. "He could change the game if you allow him to."