INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Geno Smith came back to lead a comeback.
And maybe he would have completed it had he only been able to hear anything in his helmet headset as the Seahawks faced a first-and-10 at the Rams 39 with 23 seconds left Sunday.
Seattle trailed 17-16 at the time. But Smith, shaking off a right elbow injury that caused him to miss the first two Seattle offensive series of the fourth quarter, had driven the Seahawks from their own 25 to within range of a potential game-winning field goal.
And once at the 39, Seattle appeared to have time to throw another pass or two to get closer, which with no timeouts left seemed logical.
But at that moment, Smith said his earpiece went out, and he couldn’t hear the play call from Seattle offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
So with the clock running – Seattle had gotten to the 39 thanks to a 21-yard pass from Smith to DK Metcalf that snapped with 41 seconds left – he improvised.
“I guess there was an outage or something but no play came in my helmet so I called the quickest play I could in that situation, try to maybe get a few more yards,” Smith said. “Called a run play, thought we had a chance, really didn’t work out how we thought it would.”
Indeed, Zach Charbonnet was held to a 2-yard gain, and with the clock down to 9 seconds, Smith had no choice but to spike the ball and bring on Jason Myers for a 55-yard field goal.
Myers had made his previous 15 kicks, including three earlier in the day and a game-winning 43-yarder as time ran out last week against Washington.
But 55 isn’t a chip shot. And this time, Myers’ kick went wide right. With it, the Seahawks fell to 6-4 and into second place in the NFC West ahead of a showdown Thursday night with the 7-3 49ers.
The fateful play call as well as some untimely-as-can-be penalties caused Carroll to say “I’m really disappointed because it feels like we did that to ourselves.”
Most critically, a pass interference penalty on Devon Witherspoon on third down kept alive a Rams drive that allowed L.A. to cut the lead to 16-14 midway through the fourth quarter.
An illegal use of hands penalty on Riq Woolen on another third down later in the quarter kept alive a drive that allowed the Rams to kick a field goal with 1:31 left to take a 17-16 lead.
Smith suffered the injury when he was hit by L.A. standout defensive tackle Aaron Donald with 25 seconds left in the third quarter. Backup Drew Lock finished the series, which ended in a punt, and then played two more series in the fourth quarter, which ended in a punt and an interception.
After the Rams took the lead, Smith felt able to tough out the pain in his elbow to return and completed 3 of 4 passes for 36 yards to get Seattle to the 39.
Then came the Charbonnet run.
Despite what were less-than-ideal circumstances for calling the play, Smith said he felt it would work.
“I thought we had a good chance,” Smith said. “You guys will watch the film I’m sure. You’ll see what happened.”
Smith said such earpiece outages happen “probably more often than you guys know about. But it does happen and, you know, you’ve got to make a call. That’s a situation where if you weren’t in two-minute you probably call a timeout, or have more time to go to the sidelines and get a play. But the clock’s running, and you gotta make a fast call and that’s what I did.”
Carroll talked to media before Smith and did not mention the earpiece issue.
“You’re hoping to pop it for sure,” Carroll said of the run. “We didn’t do that as clean as we’d like. … But we got in field-goal range. You know, we got there and we had a shot and Jason’s kicked balls from that far before. We’d love to have been a little bit closer. Obviously, we weren’t.”
In fact, Myers had hit from 54, 43 and 52 earlier in the game and was 3 for 5 beyond 50 before that kick.
Myers called it a “tough” kick, adding it was “pretty windy in there so I knew I kind of had to drive it a little bit. … I gave it my best swing.”
And as Carroll and players noted, there were plenty of other places where the game was lost.
Seattle had a 204-19 edge in yards midway through the second quarter, but only a 13-0 lead thanks to two drives ending in Myers field goals. That allowed the Rams to close to 13-7 at halftime – the same score by which Seattle led the season-opening game against the Rams. That one turned into a 30-13 defeat.
This time, Seattle took a 16-7 lead with 8:03 to play in the third quarter on another Myers field goal, which seemed as if it might be enough with the way the Seahawks defense was playing.
Then, Smith was injured.
Only, Seattle made a play that again appeared as if it would help put the game away, with Woolen picking off a Matthew Stafford pass on a trick play at the Seahawks 20.
But Seattle went three-and-out with Lock playing QB and Smith on the sidelines.
Then Stafford got going for the first real time all day, with passes of 23, 14 and 17 taking the ball to the 6. An apparent Rams TD was nullified due to offensive pass interference. And Seattle seemed maybe off the hook when a third-and-goal pass at the 5 fell incomplete. But Witherspoon was called for pass interference in the end zone, and the Rams scored two plays later to make it 16-14.
Three plays later on a third-and-11, Lock tried to hit Tyler Lockett deep down the left sideline. But Rams cornerback Derion Kendrick had tight coverage and came down with the ball instead – Lockett, playing despite a hamstring injury that had him listed as questionable – said he wished he’d done more to just make the pass go incomplete, though the play was 40 yards downfield anyway and the Seahawks would have had to punt.
On the next series, a deep Stafford pass down the right side to Puka Nacua on third-and-15 from the Rams 48 fell incomplete with 5:41 left. But on the other side of the field, Woolen was called for illegal use of hands on receiver Austin Trammell, giving the Rams a first down – the last of 12 penalties for 130 yards called against the Seahawks.
Woolen said the penalty “was some BS” and “the game’s supposed to be over right there.”
The Rams used their running game to get three more first downs and chew up the clock to set up Lucas Havrisik’s 22-yard field goal with 1:31 left.
Carroll said trainers told him that Smith was ready to go, so he put him back in the game.
“Threw a couple great balls to give us a shot,” Carroll said.
The main regret was that he didn’t throw a couple more to maybe give Seattle an even better shot.
“There’s some choices in there,” Carroll said of the decision on the Charbonnet run call. “I agree with that. There’s choices.”
And on this day, it also left the Seahawks with a lot of lamenting “what might have been.”