With poise and cold-blooded precision, Geno Smith did everything possible on Sunday to silence the critics and disbelievers.
And after the Seahawks’ dramatic 29-26 win over the Washington Commanders at Lumen Field, Smith was characteristically understated in his assessment of his play.
“I know who I am as a player and I know what I can do, and I always remain confident in that,” Smith said, when he could have been excused for spiking his glowing stats-sheet and screaming “how do you like me now?”
Without bluster or conceit, he made it clear that he’s still not writing back to those eager to write him off.
The first-half struggles of the Seahawks and Smith, though, were so pronounced as to draw boos from the home crowd, and generate fears that the team had not learned much from the 37-3 evisceration suffered at Baltimore the previous game.
Picture the grim stakes at that point. Another loss would provide added evidence that previous thoughts of contention this season were pipe dreams. The downward trajectory would have been tough to redirect, and the promising future of the young roster might need to be reconsidered.
None of that shook Smith, in fact, he found a calming influence from the message that coach Pete Carroll gave the team in a talk on Saturday night.
“(Carroll) talked about quieting the voices in the head, and quieting the mind,” Smith said. As quarterback, he was reminded that “guys have to feel that calmness from (me).”
Smith’s second half passing numbers (15-20, 217 yards and two touchdowns) were impressive, but more relevant to the game’s outcome was Smith’s execution in the final two drives that tied and then won the game.
This is what the Seahawks and Smith needed to show was still possible. His surprising 2022 comeback-player-of-the year season was fading from memory. Through eight games last season, he had 13 touchdowns with only three interceptions, but at the same stage this year, he had a meager nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Carroll had been staunch is his support for Smith, pointing out that he often wasn’t getting great complementary play from his offensive cohort.
After this one, Carroll listed Smith’s poise and calls and cadence and accuracy down the stretch. “He just came through like we counted on. He was perfect.”
Benefiting from solid performances from the entire offense in those last two drives, Smith completed 9 of 10 passes (discounting a spike to stop the clock) for 100 yards, including a perfect pass to Tyler Lockett for the TD.
The masterful display added up to 31-for-47 passing for 369 yards, his most productive game of the season.
“Everybody’s gonna put the heat on Geno, but he rose to the challenge,” said safety Jamal Adams. “But we knew he was gonna drive it down and punch it in.”
More than anybody, Carroll understood the importance of a healing win.
“It’s a big deal after last week to come back and play good football and play hard,” Carroll said. “We came right back and played the way we’ve been playing , playing tough and hard. They haven’t been all pretty wins all the way, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the way we finished today and the attitude and their resolve about getting this win.”
Instead of being on the edge of the competitive abyss, the Hawks moved to 6-3 to stay neck-and-neck in the division race with San Francisco.
They buttressed confidence in an offense that had gone six quarters without scoring a touchdown.
They got impressive performances by the receivers (Lockett and DK Metcalf combining for 15 catches and nearly 200 yards), the backs (Ken Walker, 127 total yards, Zach Charbonnet, 44 rushing yards and four receptions), and sacks from rising star Boye Mafe (with a sack in seven straight games) and newly acquired Leonard Williams.
And kicker Jason Myers made all five of his field-goal attempts.
The Hawks next get a shot at avenging the season-opening upset with a road game against the 3-6 Los Angeles Rams before a critical Thanksgiving showdown at home with the Niners.
Breathing easier after Smith’s revival and the Seahawks’ victorious rally, Carroll had the sound of a coach who sees all things still possible.
“We turned the corner,” he said. “Here we go.”