By Brady Henderson
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Minutes after walking off of MetLife Field a Super Bowl champion, the most relieved man in America sat at a podium and tried to put the feeling into words.
Maybe Percy Harvin just mixed up his metaphors, or maybe he was trying to emphasize what this moment meant given all he's gone through over the last six months.
"It's a big horse off my back," he said after the Seahawks' 43-8 blowout of Denver. "I finally was able to give my team something for four quarters. That meant a lot to me."
This win is gratifying for every member of the Seahawks, but it must have been especially so for Harvin and the rest of Seattle's receivers. And for different reasons. While Harvin erased a season's worth of disappointment with a stellar individual performance that included a kickoff return for a touchdown, the remaining members of a group that's been labeled as average looked anything but.
There was Doug Baldwin leading the Seahawks with five receptions for 66 yards, gaining 37 of them on one catch that set up a field goal on Seattle's second drive. He's been the most outspoken of Seattle's receivers about their perceived lack of respect, so when he caught a pass near the goal line in the fourth quarter – long after Seattle had put the game out of reach – there was no way he was going to be denied. And he wasn't, fighting through tackles to reach the end zone for Seattle's final score of the game.
"I had a lot of things that I wanted to say postgame," Baldwin said, "and I knew that I couldn't say those things unless I scored a touchdown."
So, Doug, what would that be?
Wide receivers Doug Baldwin (89) and Jermaine Kearse (15) looked anything but average while combining for nine catches, 131 yards and two scores. (AP)
"We believe that all of our receivers are capable of being No. 1 receivers because when they get their opportunities to make plays in the passing game, they have done that consistently and throughout the year," he said, "and if people would do their jobs, they would see that."
There was Jermaine Kearse – like Baldwin a former undrafted free agent – scoring a tackle-breaking touchdown of his own and finishing the game with 65 yards on four receptions. And afterward, as a horde of reporters scurried to the podium where he was about to hold court, he contrasted the scene to what it was like for him earlier in the week.
"I didn't get this at Media Day!" he said.
And then there was Harvin, who showed exactly what enticed Seattle to pay so much to acquire him – first a trio of draft picks and then the richest contract in franchise history. All the Seahawks had gotten to this point out of their $67 million investment was 33 offensive snaps, as first a hip injury and then a concussion kept Harvin out of all but two games.
The lack of film that Denver had on Harvin this season wasn't much of a factor Sunday, said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. It was more that Harvin was simply the most explosive player on the field. And the most versatile, too. He took a fly-sweep handoff and gained 30 yards on Seattle's second offensive play, then picked up the rest of his game-high 45 rushing yards on an end-around run.
And if Denver had any chance to come back from a 22-0 halftime deficit, Harvin ended it by returning the opening kickoff of the third quarter 87 yards for a touchdown.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Highlights | Interviews||• O'Neil: What we learned from Seahawks' win||• O'Neil: Seahawks ‘D' continues domination in title win||• O'Neil: Seahawks' Super Bowl MVP? Take your pick||• Huard: Breaking down the fly sweep in ‘Chalk Talk'||• Henderson: Russell Wilson makes history in victory||• Henderson: Malcom Smith takes MVP honors|
This was a satisfying end to a season that almost ended early for Harvin, who was so discouraged over his slow recovery from the hip injury that at one point he thought about shutting it down, ultimately deciding not to largely because of the encouragement he received from his teammates.
"Being injured all season, it took a toll on me," he said Sunday. "Being able to finish and being able to give my teammates something back – because I leaned on those guys so much this year to keep me up in spirits and just keep me going – it meant the world to me."
With Harvin sidelined for most of the season, analysts opined that Seattle's receiver corps was nothing special without him. "Appetizers" was the term Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, now of ESPN, used to describe the group. That sparked a back-and-forth that included this memorable line from Carter: "Google me, man. See if I ain't in the Hall of Fame."
As he sat at the podium, answering questions with a Super Bowl championship hat sitting next to the microphone, Baldwin was asked to come up with a headline for the story Seattle just wrote.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.