After watching QB Geno Smith complete his first 14 passes, run for a touchdown and throw for two more to create a 24-0 lead, two thoughts are realistic from Sunday: The Jacksonville Jaguars under rookie NFL coach Urban Meyer are a tire fire, and it’s hard to re-learn to ride a wild horse if it’s been awhile.
Then there’s a third thought: The first two thoughts are not mutually exclusive.
In his third start in place of injured Russell Wilson, Smith looked the part of a solid NFL quarterback. The Seahawks looked the part of a wild-card playoff contender. And Meyer looked the part of a college coach in over his head in the pros (it was plain that after 12 penalties 93 yards, neither he nor his team had read the NFL rulebook).
Whether there’s reality behind the Halloween looks of the Seahawks’ 31-7 triumph (box) remains to be seen, but they had to get to this place first: A dominant win over a bad team ahead of the bye week that persuaded most observers, including teammates, that Smith, after his first pro win since 2014 with the New York Jets, was capable of a complete game.
Y’know, just in case the healing of Russell Wilson’s injured finger isn’t all that.
“Is that right? 2014?” exclaimed Pete Carroll. “Where were we in 2014? Holy cow. That’s a long haul.”
The Seahawks coach quickly realized the evidence underscored his summary conclusion to the jury of NFL skeptics over the Seahawks’ disappointing 3-5 record.
“That’s my point,” he said, “He hasn’t played.”
To explain it himself, Smith borrowed a quote from an NBA star and former Seattle Sonic.
“In the words of the great Kevin Durant,” he said, ‘You guys know who I am.’
“I show you guys every day. You see me the throw the ball. I’m not trying to be arrogant or anything like that, but I’ve done it for a long time. You can pull up tape from 2014 of me doing the same thing. The reality is that I know who I am. I’m never going to get too big or too high on it. I’m never going to listen to anyone else.
“I have the louder voice in my head. I know what I can do.”
Regarding Durant’s observation, all due respect, Geno, but no. We don’t really know Geno Smith.
The giant shadow of Wilson admits no light. And it’s been seven years since Smith was a regular in a sport that pivots faster than it takes Jon Gruden to write a crude email — and a decade to discover it — so there’s little reason for anyone to know the strength of the voice in your head.
Proof was required, of the sort delivered at the Loo: 20 completions in 24 attempts, 195 yards, no turnovers a passer rating of 128.3. His three sacks cost 35 yards, but perfection wasn’t required, just more efficiency.
Carroll, thrilled almost beyond measure, laid out the timeline that allowed many to renew acquaintance with Smith.
“You look at it, he did pretty well against the Rams (a 26-17 loss),” he said. “Did some good stuff the next week (a 23-20 OT loss at Pittsburgh), good stuff the next week (a 13-10 home loss Monday to New Orleans), but not enough. And this week, he put it all together.
“I think it took him this long. He hasn’t played in a long time. Unfortunately, we had to lose some games in the meantime.”
The defeats were hardly all on him. In the four games, including three starts, his completion rate was 68 percent, five touchdown passes, one interception, one lost fumble, 103.0 quarterback rating. Staple that stat line upon a dozen or more starting QBs in the NFL, and the fan bases would be thrilled.
This game, Carroll noticed a difference.
“He was so calm, so poised and just delivered the ball,” he said. “Geno at his best. We were able to do a lot of stuff. I really think that last week was a hard game. Just all of it, was a hard game. He benefited getting through that and came in really chill. There were some really good touch balls he threw.
“Geno is a strong-arm guy. He fires the football hard. He picked the right opportunities to take something off the ball to make them catchable, and the guys came through in a big way.”
That included a second-quarter, 16-yard scoring pass that he lofted to the corner of the field where only Durant and DK Metcalf could get it, as well as a fastball to him in the third quarter for a five-yard score.
Smith was able to re-weaponize Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (12 receptions, 142 yards), thanks in part to a revised game plan that didn’t need to account for the rain and wind of Monday night.
“I think it was a lot different — it had to be,” Smith said. “People don’t want to take account for the wind and rain, but it was real out there. You can’t just go out there and try to fling the ball all over the place, that’s not realistic.
(Against the Jags) we were aggressive early, we stayed on it, pushed the tempo, and you can really see how it affected those guys.”
The Seahawks defense had a second substantial game in row, allowing 309 yards to the Jags after 303 to the Saints, including an 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter well after the outcome was known. The Jags lost in the first half their top running back, to an ankle injury, and their star QB, Trevor Lawrence, showed his rookieness.
Inadequacy of the foe, however, will be no issue in the two games following the bye. Green Bay and Arizona are each 7-1 after the Packers beat the Cardinals in the desert Thursday. The popular presumption is that Wilson’s surgically repaired finger will allow him to play in Green Bay Nov. 14.
Yet . . . no one knows.
But everyone learned something Sunday: Geno Smith still can win NFL games.