Caesar Rodney grad Duron Harmon back in Super Bowl

From a Patriots’ point of view, the situation looked pretty hopeless.

The Steelers’ Jesse James had caught the ball in the flat and needed only a couple yards to reach the end zone.

New England defender Patrick Chung had James wrapped up but the 6-foot-7 tight end was lunging toward the goal line.

Duron Harmon wasn’t giving up, though.

The Patriots’ safety, running down the goal line, lowered his right shoulder into James.

“We always talk about swarming and getting to the ball — not leaving your man out to dry,” said Harmon, the Caesar Rodney High grad. “I saw the ball thrown over there and I wanted to make sure I got there before he crossed the line.”

In that instant, it looked like Harmon had failed. The officials signaled a touchdown.

But replays showed that Harmon had indeed helped stop James inches from scoring and the call was overturned.

Still, with Pittsburgh that close to the goal line, the situation again seemed pretty hopeless.

“That yard is so small, and you would think the Pittsburgh Steelers would be able to get that yard,” Harmon was quoted in the Boston Globe. “But those guys showed so much determination and fight to keep them out of the end zone.”

Indeed, not only did the Steelers not score a TD, they lost yards on the next couple plays before finally settling for a field goal just before halftime in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

It was a crucial turn of events, with the Patriots leading by only 11 points at the time. And when New England ended up winning 36-17, Harmon’s four-point tackle was another one those little plays that added up to a big victory.

As a reward, Harmon gets to go the Super Bowl — the second time in his four-year career that he’s reached the NFL’s biggest stage.

Not bad for a kid from a small town like Magnolia.

“Duron’s been a great kid,” said Caesar Rodney coach Dan Candeloro, who’s stayed in touch with Harmon. “He works hard every day. He got into a great program with the Patriots. It’s pretty neat.

“Talking with him, he is definitely humble about it and very pleased to be part of that great organization.”

The trouble for Harmon, who turned 26 on Tuesday, is that now he and his teammates have to deal with the Atlanta Falcons and their dominant receiver, Julio Jones.

The 6-foot-3 Jones had nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta’s NFL Championship Game win over Green Bay on Sunday.

Harmon remembers how impressed he was with Jones after he tried to cover Jones in his rookie season with the Patriots.

“He went up and made an amazing catch on the sideline when his team needed him to make that catch the most,” Harmon said in an interview on radio station WEEl on Monday.

“Right then and there, just being a rookie, you realize, ‘This guy is really unbelievable. They just threw it up into basically double-coverage and he came down with it.’ We know we’ve got our work cut out for us.

“That guy’s the total package,” said Harmon. “He’s definitely the best receiver in the league. I mean it’s a tossup between him and ‘AB’ (the Steelers’ Antonio Brown). … He’s an amazing layer, an amazing talent.”

Of course, the challenges are supposed to be big in the Super Bowl.

By Monday morning, Harmon said had already been studying film of the Falcons. Even with two weeks to go until the game, he knows there’s no such thing as being over-prepared.

“I’m trying to win the Super Bowl,” Harmon said with a laugh during his radio interview. “I did celebrate a little but I was up this morning watching some film.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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