The return was a counter right, which the Seahawks had not featured this season. Coach Pete Carroll saved it for Harvin. The receiver had returned just one kickoff this season, but his teammates thought the return would finish in the end zone. They told him it even when he was sidelined with an injury.
"It wasn't just saying it to say it," Harvin said. "Those guys believed that I was going to get in the end zone. When I broke through and I saw the end zone, I really couldn't believe it."
Harvin excelled throughout the victory. It was the most Harvin had participated all season. His final stat line read 45 rushing yards, 5 receiving yards, and 87 return yards. That does not do Harvin's performance justice; he was critical in getting the Seahawks their first Super Bowl victory.
On the Seahawks' second offensive play, he carried the ball 30 yards on an end around. He was a threat for the Seahawks' offense throughout the evening, forcing the Broncos to worry about a dynamic that had not been present through the season.
The Seahawks gambled on Harvin last spring, and they extended that gamble. They dealt three draft picks, including their first-round selection, to acquire Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. They signed him to a six-year deal that could be worth as much as $67 million, and has $25 million guaranteed.
Harvin injured his hip during the summer. He returned for one game before his hip sent him to the sideline again. He came back for the divisional round of the playoffs before a concussion knocked him out.
He took 19 offensive snaps during the regular season. He took 19 more in the postseason before Sunday. The Seahawks paid him $14.5 million for that work. They never put him on injured reserve.
"That's the first time everybody saw our whole offense out there with [Harvin] out there, and him returning kicks," cornerback Richard Sherman said.
The Seahawks remained bullish on Harvin despite his absence. Both coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider touted Harvin's ability.
The kickoff return showed Harvin at his finest. The Broncos appeared to try kicking the ball in a way that would limit Harvin's return. That's why it bounced at the Seahawks' 13-yard line before Harvin grabbed the ball out of the air. He fended off one arm tackle and ran around the rest, right up the middle of Denver's special teams.
When he barreled through kicker Matt Prater's attempted tackle, Harvin had no Broncos in front of him and a 29-0 lead awaiting him.
"As soon as I caught the ball," Harvin said, "it was open field."
The Seahawks had a 22-point halftime lead, and the Broncos' hopes of a comeback required quick second-half scores. A stop on the Seahawks' opening drive was a near necessity. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning sat on the bench, staring at the video board in disgust. After the game, players on the Broncos discussed the backbreaking nature of the return.
The Seahawks' weakness this season was the lack of difference-makers on offense. That was supposed to be Harvin's role. They won 13 games and reached the Super Bowl without him.
They played their finest game of the season with him. Harvin is only 25. If the Seahawks were this impressive in 2013 without Harvin, then the other 31 teams could have nightmares about what the Super Bowl champs will be like with Harvin healthy.
"I finally was able to give my team something for four quarters," Harvin said. "That meant a lot to me. Being injured all season, it took a toll on me."