When the Seahawks took an early lead against the Broncos in Week 1, Geno Smith threw touchdown passes of 38 yards to Will Dissly and 25 yards to Colby Parkinson. With Rashaad Penny adding a 26-yard run into the mix, the Seahawks offense looked like everything Pete Carroll is looking for on that side of the ball—efficient, balanced and explosive—and that first-half production was enough to help Seattle to a season-opening win.
In the six quarters since that opening half, however, the Seahawks have not scored on offense, have struggled to sustain drives and get the running game going, and have had only one pass completion of 20 or more yards, a 27-yarder to Tyler Lockett in the second quarter of last week's loss to the 49ers.
And while Carroll will always want his teams to run the ball well, one solution he sees for his offense's struggles is to put more faith in Smith, who has completed 80 percent or more of his passes in each of his past three starts dating back to last season, something never before done in the NFL. The way Carroll sees it, Smith has shown he can handle everything in Seattle's offense, and at some point more of those passes need to be completed downfield.
"We didn't find our explosions in the game, and I felt like there is no reason to go for our stuff," Carroll said. "We have all kinds of things that we want to do, and I think we can do more of it, just the things that we work on and all, with this thought—I'm not going to wait three or four more weeks to figure out where Geno is looking like. I think he looks really good. I'm convinced that what he has done in practice and what we have seen, he has carried to the games. The game is not too big. He's very comfortable in the games. He's very poised about stuff and he's accurate as heck. There's no reason to be worried about him at all."
"We needed to take what they were giving us more so. (The 49ers) were really laying off and giving us some room. Geno was popping the ball around, and he was in good shape to throw it. The protection wasn't bad, we should have gone that way a little more. It's such a broken record when you don't convert, and you don't get enough chances. We needed more opportunities, but we have to create them ourselves by the execution, so we had a chance to throw the ball a little more than we did."
As Carroll notes, pass protection is part of why he feels confident that the Seahawks can look to throw the ball downfield more often. Opening the season with a pair of rookies starting at tackle, the Seahawks might have felt like they need to play it safe to make life easier for Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, but those two have for the most part held up very well in their first two games, giving Smith and the coaching staff the confidence to make whatever throws the opposing defense is giving them.
"He's clearly in command of it, poised, and we need to not hold back at all," Carroll said. "I kind of implied that we could have thrown the football more with the opportunities that we had, and with the trust that we have in him, we need to do that. When it's given to us, we need to take advantage of it, and we don't have to hold back at all… (The rookie tackles) are holding up, they did a nice job in general, Geno is really in command of what is going on, and he is really accurate in his decision making. I think it is just more freely taking advantage of what is going on rather than being concerned about our ability to hold up."
Carroll isn't alone in having faith in Smith to make more deep and intermediate throws to get the offense going. DK Metcalf, who if not for an ineligible-man-downfield penalty would have had the Seahawks' longest play of the season, an impressive one-handed grab for a would-be 54-yard gain, also has the utmost confidence in his quarterback.
"Geno has showed great poise in the pocket," Metcalf said. "He has led us throughout the whole week, not only as the quarterback, but as a leader of this offense and this team. Just to hear Pete say that was a sigh of relief to let Geno actually go out there and play free, and not have any restrictions as an offense."
For his part, Smith is happy to throw the ball anywhere—short, intermediate or deep—if it's the best way to successfully get the ball down the field. He knows a big part of his job is to take care of the ball, so he isn't going to start forcing bad decisions just to take more deep shots, but Smith is more than willing to take his shots if the defense is loading up the box to stop the run, or throw intermediate passes over the middle if teams are playing two-high shell coverages to take away deep balls to Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
"We are just going to take what they give us until they start to play us more in man coverage and up in our faces, it doesn't make sense just to try and air it out just for the sake of doing that," Smith said. "I'm always going to take what they give us and try to be efficient on offense. That's the main goal, to be efficient and to move the ball to score.
"I believe there will be opportunities (to throw downfield). We are two games into the season, and we have a long season to play, but I do believe that there will be more opportunities. That comes with different scenarios and situations in games. I just don't think that we have been in that situation a bunch. Like I said, when there are opportunities to take shots—we had taken one in the last game that got called back—but when we do get those opportunities, we are going to take them. If they will continue to play us off and soft, we have to still be efficient, move the chains, and we are fine doing that as well."
And as Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron points out, the confidence in Smith wasn't just built over two games of completing 80 percent of his passes, but rather the entire body of work Smith put forward on his way to winning the job. And like Carroll, Waldron also feels confident to open up the playbook in no small part due to what he's seen from the rookie tackles.
"Throughout the course of training camp, (Smith's) practice preparation was so good, he was playing at a high level, really understood all the concepts that we're doing, he has such a good understanding of defensive football, then the ability to get in and out of plays," Waldron said. "So Geno has just continued to do what he has shown us he can do, and I can't wait to see him again this Sunday.
"It goes back to Geno, having all the confidence in the world in him, and then the two rookie tackles have done such a good job of playing at a high level and functioning at a high level early on. It just means feeling good about, there's not going to be plays where you work on them during the week, and say, 'Ah, maybe don't' feel good about that yet.' Just going ahead and going with what we're working on letting that ball rip on gameday, and trusting the run game that all the stuff we worked on and practiced so hard to get to, really having that full playbook open."
The Seahawks practiced at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton on September 22, 2022. Seahawks practice photos are presented by Gatorade.