INGLEWOOD—Geno Smith has done just about everything right in his first season as the Seahawks' starting quarterback, playing at a Pro-Bowl level while helping put his team in playoff contention.
But if there was one thing left for Smith to add to his already impressive 2022 resume, it was to lead the offense on a game-winning drive late in a game.
And when the Seahawks got the ball back at their own 25-yard line, down three points with 2:56 left on the clock, Smith showed he's more than capable of leading a game-winning drive. With Smith completing six of nine passes for 65 yards, the Seahawks marched 75 yards in 10 plays, the last of which was a dart in traffic that found DK Metcalf for an 8-yard touchdown to give the Seahawks a 27-23 win.
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"That's a big-time moment, man," said receiver Tyler Lockett, who had nine catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. "A lot of people have their own opinions of quarterbacks and what they can and can't do, and the biggest thing about Geno is he just puts his head down and he just works. He just does what needs to be done to be able to help us play. He had a chance to be able to help us win a numerous amount of times, and we just shot our own selves in the foot or we got those flags, so just seeing his mentality, seeing how he's all in the game. He's all in. He's bought in. He's making plays left and right."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll loved everything about the finish to the game, including the final defensive stop that ended with a Cody Barton interception to seal the victory, but said Smiths' finish stood out most, "To see Geno have the chance to take the team down the field and do it, and just execute his tail off and have a huge game again numbers-wise. It's just what he's doing. This is the season that he's playing, and we're lucky to have him."
The Seahawks have had a ton of faith in Smith ever since he won the starting job, and even before that dating back to last season when he took over for an injured Russell Wilson, but Carroll noted it was important for Smith and for the team to get this type of win after falling short in a couple of close finishes this year.
"I've been aware that he needs that, he needs one of those chances to do it," Carroll said. "It just hasn't worked out quite right. But He was incredible down the stretch. I wish you guys can see how poised he is, how clear he is to communicate with, how calm he is in the moments, the big moments and all. He's just on it, and he has to be to be performing the way he's performing so consistently for so long now. It's a remarkable statement that he's making about who he is and what he's all about and just proud as heck of him.
"We needed to see him do it and have a chance to make a heroic finish like that. It's what these guys do when they're great, and he did one today. It's an all-time comeback drive, and he did it perfectly."
Smith finished his day 28 for 39 for a career-high 367 yards, three touchdowns, one (debatable) interception and a 116.1 passer rating, and what made his performance all the more special is that the Seahawks played the entire second half without starting running back Kenneth Walker III, and with DeeJay Dallas gutting it out through an ankle injury, meaning the running game was limited, putting that much more pressure on the passing game to get the job done.
Smith's teammates weren't surprised he came through when the team needed him, leading scoring drives on Seattle's final two possessions after throwing a third-quarter interception. On that play, a pass that was ruled an interception by Bobby Wagner, running back Tony Jones Jr. had the ball in his hands with a knee down before Wagner ripped it away, but officials determining Jones didn't have full control of the ball. Despite that call not going Smith's way, he responded by leading a long drive that ended in a field goal on Seattle's next possession, then after the Rams retook the lead with a touchdown drive, Smith and the offense took the field with a shot to win it.
Smith started the drive with a 9-yard completion to Metcalf, then found Noah Fant for 7 more yards. After an illegal contract penalty and an incomplete pass to Lockett, Smith went back to Fant for a 14-yard gain. Back-to-back incompletions to Lockett followed, setting up a critical third-and-10 with the Seahawks at the edge of field goal range, and Smith came through with a 10-yard completion to Lockett. After a DeeJay Dallas run, Smith hit Marquise Goodwin with a pass over the middle for 17 yards, setting up 8-yard game-winner to Metcalf, who caught the pass with cornerback Jalen Ramsey hanging off his back. For the drive, Smith was 6 for 9 for 65 yards and a touchdown.
"It wasn't a huge window, but when you've got DK Metcalf, a big 6-4 receiver, 220, 230, it's going to be hard for those guys to get to the ball before he does," Smith said of the game-winner. "So I just tried to put it on him, allow him to use his skillset, and he made a tremendous catch.
And even if some people felt like Smith needed a game-winning drive to prove something, Goodwin has never doubted his quarterback: "I didn't need to see it. I've always believed in him, I'm sticking to my guns. He's an unbelievable player and a great leader, and I'm glad he's my quarterback."
Said Metcalf, who had eight catches for 127 yards and a score, "He's been showing the same things since day one—poise, leader, a great competitor. Whenever we have the ball in 2-minute and the game's on the line, I've got faith in him, Shane, everybody out there on offense, defense, I just trust in this team a lot."
For Smith, the final drive was less about validation, and more about the Seahawks getting a much-needed win in the type of game they know they're going to see again at some point this season, as well as in the playoffs should they continue to win.
"For us it meant a lot," said Smith. "Right now we're fighting to get in the playoffs. A division game, it was a real tough game out there, it was a real scrappy game out there, and I also feel like during the season, we had some opportunities where we could have done the same thing and fell short. As we continue on late into the season, you want to show improvement, and I think that's what it showed. A lot of grit, determination, you saw a bunch of different guys make plays, and the offensive line did a great job. It's something we've got to have, games are going to come down to that in the NFL, that's what playoff games are going to feel like, and it was real good to get a win."
Check out some of the best action shots from Week 13 at the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on December 4, 2022. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.