Not long after the Seahawks lost a close game in Cincinnati, Geno Smith stood at a lectern and repeatedly let it be known to anyone listening that he was placing the blame for his team's defeat on his shoulders.
"I feel like the guys deserve to win today, obviously I didn't do my best job today to get that done," Smith said following Seattle’s 17-13 loss to the Bengals. "Those are things I put on myself, I lay right at my feet, right on my shoulders, and I look forward to the next opportunity."
Later he added, "I feel like the guys played a tremendous game, and if I made a few less mistakes and a few more plays, then we're in here talking about a win. Really, it falls at my feet, on my shoulders, and that next one, that next one is what it's all about."
Was Sunday's game Smith's best as Seattle's starting quarterback? Far from it. He missed pulling the trigger on a couple of throws he usually makes, he threw a pair of interceptions—though DK Metcalf later took the blame for one of those—and he was part of an offensive effort that fell short in the red zone on four occasions in the second half with a chance to take the lead.
But was the loss, as Smith put it, "right on my shoulders" without a lot of blame to go around? Hardly. Smith did still throw for 326 yards while completing 65.8 percent of his passes, making a few of the beautiful downfield throws that have been the calling card of his tenure in Seattle. And as has been the case all season, Smith was playing behind a beat up offensive line, with two starters missing the game, and two more playing through injuries throughout the game, affecting their play.
So it's safe to say that Smith's teammates and coaches know the loss fell on more people than just their quarterback, but at the same time, Smith's postgame accountability was significant, even he was shouldering more than his fair share of the responsibility.
"It's a perfect illustration of leadership," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "That's exactly what guys should do. If that's how they feel about it, then they express it that way. The example that they display for other players is exceedingly valuable for us, so you spend time trying to deny what just happened, you get after it and you figure it out and you get right and you get better for it. I thought Geno did a perfect job of that."
The offense's inability to convert in the red zone meant a loss despite a great effort for the defense, which limited Cincinnati to a single field goal—and that came following a turnover on a possession in which the Bengals didn't gain a yard—over its final eight possessions after the Bengals scored a pair of early touchdowns. No one on the defense was going to blame Smith's performance for the loss, but his words were appreciated nonetheless.
"You definitely respect it, because it's him trying to have accountability," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "He plays a tough position. When you win the games, it's the quarterback. When you lose, it's the quarterback. I don't look at it that way. There are plays that we could've made from a defensive standpoint that didn't put them in the situation. All across the board guys could've done stuff better. I never looked at it that way. You appreciate it, you respect it, but that loss was not on Geno. That was a group thing. A lot of guys could've done stuff different. We collectively take that loss. It's not going to say in the loss column on Geno, it's going to say Seahawks."
Said linebacker Jordyn Brooks, "When you're the quarterback, by default, you're a leader, and Geno showed great leadership. He holds himself accountable, and we know what Geno can do. Nobody is pointing fingers, so we just take it with a grain of salt, and we know 7 is going to come back and do what he's going to do."
For his part, Smith didn't see what he said after the game as a big deal. He was just being the person he was raised by his family to be.
"I think I'm just being honest when I'm up there speaking," he said. "I'm really being honest about how I feel about the game. Anytime you get the ball in your hands in the fourth quarter, two-minute drive or with a chance to go and take the lead, which we did, we had the opportunity, those are the moments I live for. I look forward to those opportunities and I feel like when the ball is in my hands, when the ball is in the offense's hands and we have a chance to go take the game, that's what we need to do. When it doesn't happen, I always look at myself and say, 'What do I need to do better?' As one of the leaders on this team, it's always going to be me and never anyone else. I'm always going to put it on my shoulders. It's not a specific reason why I do it, it's just me being honest.
"I've just always been that way, I'm a perfectionist at heart, and so I've always been that way. I don't see it as anything hard, it's not tough to be accountable. I just think that's who I am, that's how I was raised. In my upbringing in my household, you had to be accountable and I just kind of took it to life."
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