There were no gimmicks. No lining him up in different spots to try to confuse the defense. No bringing him in motion.
Former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison lined up on the same side -- the right side -- on every snap. And Harrison beat defenders -- multiple ones at the same time on occasion -- over and over again throughout his 13-year Hall of Fame career.
“That made it even more incredible,” Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said. “You knew he was right there. You could have done anything you wanted and said, ‘Let’s take him out. He’s going to be lined up right here.’ You didn’t have to do a lot of preparing to figure out where he would be. He stayed in the same spot and still gave teams the business. That’s when you know that’s a bad boy.”
Yes, Harrison always was lined up on the right side during his record-breaking 2002 season, when he had 143 receptions for 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns. That made what already was an impressive season even more so.
“When people would ask about Hall of Fame credentials, I think the amazing thing to me was when I got there, the numbers he put up, he did it with us not doing anything special with him,” former Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “Everyone knew the offense, knew the plays, knew the routes, and he just did it and caught 140-something balls my first year there from one spot. I thought that was the most unbelievable thing that I’ve seen in football.”
Dungy pointed out the Colts’ winning drive against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game that put them in the Super Bowl in the 2006 season as an example of how Harrison impacted games.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was so determined to keep Harrison from beating his team that he kept extra help on Harrison's side of the field the entire drive. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, as he often did during his career, didn't try to force the ball to Harrison. He used the other side of the field to beat New England. Manning completed passes to Reggie Wayne (11 yards and 14 yards) and Bryan Fletcher (32 yards), and running back Joseph Addai rushed for 11 yards, including the winning 3-yard touchdown, on the drive.
“The Patriots played the same coverage the whole way down the field because they didn’t want Marvin to beat them,” Dungy said. “They rolled the coverage to his side and we threw the ball on the left side all the way down the field. Marvin never had a ball thrown to him, but what people don’t understand is, by him lining up and by Bill Belichick saying ‘I can’t let Marvin Harrison beat us,’ it let us do what we were able to do on that drive. That was the beauty of Marvin.”