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Seahawks ‘got cleaner and sharper’ as game went on in win over Commanders

Seattle quarterback Geno Smith calls a play Sunday during the third quarter against the Washington Commanders at Lumen Field in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith’s performance Sunday was a little whiplash-inducing.

In the first half, as the Seahawks trudged to a 9-9 halftime tie with Washington, Smith was 16 of 27 for 152 yards, no touchdowns and a passer rating of 74.9.

In the second half, Smith was 15 of 20 for 217 yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 143.1 (a perfect rating is 153.8) as Seattle scored on four its last five drives to pull out a 29-26 victory.

So what changed?

Coach Pete Carroll said there were no real magic tricks pulled at halftime.

Instead, he offered the more mundane reasoning that the Seahawks just stopped making as many mistakes.

“We had enough issues with penalties early on and then the third-down conversions (3 for 8 in first half) – that’s enough to screw up any offensive production,” Carroll said. “… We just got cleaner and sharper as the game went on. I don’t know why that happened. I would’ve done it earlier if we could’ve figured that out.”

The first-half key down failures included two fourth-and-1s when the Seahawks initially lined up as if they were going to go for it, only to then have to settle for a field goal after a penalty.

Carroll, though, indicated neither play was Smith’s fault.

On the first, Seattle was called for a delay-of-game penalty facing a fourth-and-1 at the Washington 21.

Carroll said he should have called timeout when he realized the play clock was running down.

“I was right there to call timeout if we couldn’t make it and we thought we were going to make it,” he said. “We knew it was right at the nub, we were talking about it as we were going, and we just didn’t quite hit it. I took a chance with all of the input that I had, and I screwed it up by not calling timeout because we didn’t get it.”

On the second fourth-and-1 attempt in the second quarter, Seattle was called for a false start on a play when Smith said later the Seahawks were trying to draw Washington offside.

The first half also ended in unseemly fashion when the Seahawks tried to run another play from the Washington 34 with 15 seconds and no timeouts remaining, calling their last one before the play snapped.

Smith ended up trying to throw the ball away under heavy pressure and was called for intentional grounding, which resulted in a clock run off and ended the half.

Carroll also took the hit for that sequence on his radio show on Seattle Sports 710, noting that the Seahawks called some long-developing routes, apparently trying to hit a big play.

Seattle had pulled off something similar last year at New Orleans when Smith threw a 35-yard TD to Tyler Lockett with 7 seconds left in the first half on a play that snapped with 14 seconds remaining.

Carroll said of the play call: “That puts him in position to take a sack because he’s got to take a look. …. That was totally on me. I made it harder on him than I needed to.

“The execution at the end was just as clean as you could hope for. The timing of the throw and the catch, the protection was there, the communication from the calls coming. Everything was right on it.”

So what happened to the defense late?

Also giving Sunday’s game a whiplash feel was Seattle’s defense suddenly giving up 144 yards and 14 points in the final 12:09 after holding Washington to 212 yards and 12 points until then.

Washington got its first fourth-quarter scoring drive going when it ran four straight times for 34 yards after running it nine times for 34 yards to that point.

Carroll pointed to that running success setting up the rest of what Washington did in that quarter while also noting that QB Sam Howell simply made two really good plays on each scoring pass.

On the first, a 19-yard pass to Antonio Gibson, he was under heavy pressure from Boye Mafe as he threw. On the second, he fired a 35-yard TD pass to Dyami Brown just over the outstretched hands of Seattle’s Devon Witherspoon and Jordyn Brooks.

“They shifted modes a little bit and went after the running game right off the bat,” Carroll said. “It surprised us a little bit. That wasn’t what had happened earlier in the game. They put three or four runs back-to-back that were pretty effective and that just moved the football. We come back the next time and we’re not sure if they are going to try and do it again. We had to play our way into that next sequence. They hit a couple of good plays. The pass for the touchdown [to Brown] was a remarkable throw and catch. We had coverage guys right on them, on point, right where they’re supposed to be.”

RT Lucas to return this week

Carroll confirmed what he’d said last week that right tackle Abraham Lucas, a former Washington State offensive lineman, will return to practice after sitting out since the first game of the season with a knee injury.

Lucas can practice for 21 days before he has to be activated to the 53-man roster or returned to injured reserve.

Carroll said he couldn’t say when Lucas would be back to playing status but didn’t rule out he could return for Sunday’s game at Los Angeles against the Rams.

“We don’t even know,” Carroll said. “We’re going to see. We’re going to see what he does, what he looks like and how he feels about it and how he responds to the workload of the actual football stuff. He has a chance.”

When Lucas does return, the Seahawks will have to figure out how to divvy up snaps up front.

Stone Forsythe again started at right tackle Sunday, his fourth straight at that spot.

But 41-year-old veteran Jason Peters again rotated in for him. And with coaches feeling as if Peters was playing well, he got more of the snaps as the game wore on, ending up with 51 to Forsythe’s 25.

“He just played a really good football game,” Carroll said of Peters. “He did a very nice job. It was obviously his best play for us, and that’s why we left him in. We had planned to split the time. We liked the way he was going so we just kind of left him out there and we’re pleased to have him out there at the end and down the stretch.”

The game was the last in which Peters could play as a practice squad elevation. He has to go on the 53 to continue to play. That seems likely to happen. And one scenario is that Seattle could rotate Lucas and Peters and ease Lucas back into action after having missed more than two months.

WR Young may be OK

In what was Seattle’s only apparent new injury Sunday, receiver Dareke Young suffered a re-injury to his abdomen. Young had been on IR all season after having surgery to repair an abductor muscle injury.

But Carroll said that Young may have escaped a significant injury.

“When they tested him, he was better than they had anticipated,” Carroll said. “It’s a shock that something yanked or something happened, and he felt better after a little while, after the game.”