NASHVILLE—For the second time in six days, the Seahawks found themselves in a similar situation.
Trailing late in the fourth quarter, with their playoff hopes likely on the line, the Seahawks needed a touchdown. And on Sunday, not only was the location and opponent different, so too was the quarterback, with Geno Smith having returned from a two-game absence due to a groin injury.
And just like Drew Lock a week earlier, Smith was up to the task, leading the Seahawks on a 14-play 75-yard drive that gave the Seahawks the lead for good in a 20-17 win over the Titans, a drive that culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Colby Parkinson, Smith's second touchdown of the fourth quarter.
"I'm thinking just like last week," Smith said of his mindset heading into the drive. "I feel like Drew did a great job last week and we had a chance to match it this week. As I'm going out there, I'm not thinking about anything else besides the situation, knowing we got four downs. I think we had two or three timeouts left. So, we had a bunch of time, about three minutes. I was thinking about the situation and how we can get in the end zone. I thought Shane (Waldron) did a great job. I thought protection held up great. Obviously, receivers did a great job of getting open, and Colby made a heck of a catch to seal the deal right there."
Smith completed 7 of 10 passes on the game-winning drive for 57 yards, including an 18-yard strike to rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba to convert on third-and-14. He also threw what likely would have been the go-ahead touchdown to DK Metcalf earlier in the drive, but Metcalf was grabbed by an otherwise beaten defensive back for a touchdown-saving pass interference penalty.
Prior to the winning drive, Smith and the offense went 96 yards to take the lead for the first time, a drive that ended with a perfectly placed 11-yard touchdown pass to Metcalf. For the game, Smith was a respectable 25 for 36 for 227 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 104.7 rating, but he was particularly good in the second half, going 15 for 20 for 158 yards and both touchdowns.
And the game-winning drive was Smith's fourth this season, having also led the Seahawks to late-game scores to win games over the Lions, Browns, and Commanders.
"You've got to be around him to appreciate the competitive mentality that he has," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's in such a good place. He believes so strongly that it's going to happen, and it's going to get done and his guys are going to come through for him. And that belief it transfers, translates to other guys, they feel him. So they go through and do what they're supposed to do, and it comes out well. He's having an enormous impact on these guys just because his mentality is so strong and so consistent."
Added Tyler Lockett, who had three catches for 27 yards on the final drive, all of which gained first downs, "I think the best thing about Geno is he's super calm. He's not going to panic. He's reading his keys, he's doing everything right, going through his reads and he trusts every single person that's out there. I think when you watch us and we're running routes, he's literally putting the ball exactly where, as a receiver, you would want it to be. And everybody's making big-time catches, allowing us to be able to move the sticks. And when teams are trying to take away certain players, other players got to be able to step up. Each and every time we have a chance to do that, it only makes our offense grow and makes our offense a lot better."
What the final two touchdown drives also showed, in addition to Smith's poise and ability to come through in clutch situations, is what the presence of three high-end receivers can do for Seattle's offense. Whether it was Lockett catching those three passes on the final drive, or Smith-Njigba starting the 96-yard drive with a 20-yard catch, then adding the third-and-14 conversion on the winning drive, or Metcalf scoring a touchdown to cap one drive, and setting up another by getting open and drawing a pass interference call, the Seahawks have a lot of playmaking weapons available in their passing game. The attention those receivers command also created the one-on-one situation that Parkinson was able to take advantage of on the winning score. With Parkinson lined up left and the receivers bunched to the right, most of the Titans secondary was shaded towards the right, giving Parkinson space to work and make the eventual winning play.
"I thought Geno used everybody so well today, and to go to Colby at the end, it's something we've been looking forward to doing, working on," Carroll said. "Everybody was watching him, and everybody knew it was going to him. And he came through with a great play, it was a great throw and also a great catch to win it right there. It gives us the kind of flexibility that we can really move the ball, but it doesn't happen unless the big guys protect like they did, and they did a great job."
None of Seattle's trio of receivers put up spectacular numbers—Lockett led the way with 81 yards on eight catches—but combined, the trio of Lockett, Metcalf and Smith-Njigba combined for 198 yards on 18 catches.
"I think it's big," Smith said of having three receivers like Metcalf, Lockett and Smith-Njigba. "You can add the tight ends and the running backs in that as well. I think it is huge for us as an offense to not be one dimensional in any aspect. Obviously, we got a guy like DK Metcalf who's going to draw so much attention, and he's a true alpha, a true number one. Every single team has a plan for him. They're going to try and double him. I love the patience that he shows, knowing that Jaxon's going to have to get some targets, Tyler is going to have to get some of those targets, and the tight ends as well. Because he opens up the game for those guys, when they are doubling him, that's one less guy in coverage on the other side. When you've got guys like that, all those guys can make plays. You just drop back, read the field, and throw it to the open guy. That's the special part of this offense."
Check out some of the best action shots from Week 16 at the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 24, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.