At various times this year, I’ve heard a comparison that should send shivers up the spine of every Seahawks fan. The good news is, Percy Harvin might be on the way to make it all moot.
According to this line of thinking (which sounds more like a paranoid fever dream), the Seahawks are in danger of being the football equivalent of the 2001 Mariners. That is, a team that dominated in the regular season, but is not built for playoff success.
All the Mariners got for those record-breaking 116 wins was a narrow series triumph over the Indians in the first playoff round (and they had to win the final two games to achieve that), followed by an unceremonious ouster in the League Championship Series at the hands of the Yankees, who dominated them in five games.
Just like that, six months of euphoria and wishful World Series dreaming went poof. It was the ultimate anticlimax, though the Sept. 11 attacks allowed one to put a sporting disappointment in its proper perspective.
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According to this theory, the Seahawks’ ultimate downfall on the road to the Super Bowl will be their offense, which over the final four games averaged just 19.3 points and 263 yards.
Their shortage of elite players on that side of the ball will catch up to them — or so the thinking goes — when they begin to face the cream of the crop. The Mariners, with tremendous depth that served them beautifully over 162 games, but no lockdown ace, were overwhelmed by the Yankees’ blue-chip playoff rotation of Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens.
The three other teams remaining in the NFC (the Panthers, Saints and 49ers) ranked second, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the NFL in scoring defense. That leaves the Seahawks vulnerable to having their offense, which has sputtered down the stretch, shut down to an extent they won’t be able to overcome it in a loser-out scenario.
I don’t buy this theory, for any number of reasons. For one, the Seahawks have an excellent quarterback, which compensates for a lot of other deficiencies. They are playing all their pre-Super Bowl games at CenturyLink Field, where they are nearly impenetrable (though a loss to Arizona in their next-to-last game showed they can indeed be beaten at home).
They’ve already beaten the other three remaining NFC teams — San Francisco and New Orleans decisively at home, Carolina narrowly on the road to open the season. Most important, the Seahawks have the best defense in the league, teeming with elite players, which will allow them to win if the game turns into a fistfight.
But the best antidote to this entire scenario would be the return of Harvin, who was acquired, at tremendous expense in both money and draft picks, precisely to push the Seahawks over the top.
In his lone appearance this season against Minnesota on Nov. 17, Harvin gave a tantalizing glimpse of the game-changing potential of a player who produced at least 100 total yards in 34 of 54 games with Minnesota.
Though he played just 16 snaps, Harvin made a one-handed catch for 17 yards that eventually led to one touchdown, and returned a kickoff 58 yards to set up another.
But that wasn’t the half of it. His mere presence in that game caused the Vikings (who knew better than anyone what he’s capable of doing) to focus considerable defensive attention on Harvin, who lined up wide, in the slot and in the backfield.
That played a part in Doug Baldwin getting open for a 44-yard reception and Ricardo Lockette for 27 yards. Harvin even delivered a key block on a 23-yard gain by Marshawn Lynch, and induced a pass interference call that was negated by a hold on Russell Okung.
The great mystery, of course, is whether Harvin’s hip will hold up well enough to allow him to play at full capacity — or at all. But even a semblance of Harvin’s explosiveness provides a threat that will benefit the entire offense.
The fact that Harvin played in just one regular-season game will be meaningless if he can produce now. He can still deliver precisely what the Seahawks got him for — to turn a very good team into one that can thrive in the white-hot spotlight of the postseason.
That’s not to say the Seahawks are unbeatable with Harvin. This is the NFL postseason, where strange, unforeseen turns of events are commonplace. Nor are they doomed if he can’t go. This team produced the NFC’s best record despite having Harvin for just one game, and they remain supremely confident in their ability, with or without him.
But for those with a fatalistic bent — part and parcel of being a Seattle sports fan, it seems — the sight of Harvin trotting out onto the field on Saturday will help erase the specter of the 2001 Mariners.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.