As Geno Smith rolled out after escaping pressure late in the first half, he knew in the back of his mind that he had a heck of a run going, having completed his first 14 pass attempts of the game.
But the Seahawks quarterback also knew that the important thing in that situation was to be smart and not take a big sack, creating a longer field goal attempt, so Smith tossed his first incompletion of the day, a harmless throwaway out of the back of the end zone.
And even though it was intentional, that throwaway was one of the few misses Smith had all night in what was his best performance as a Seahawk, a game that saw him throw two touchdown passes and rush for one more while leading the Seahawks to a 31-7 victory over the Jaguars.
"This was really Geno at his best," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "That's what we can count on for him… He made some tough throws when he needed to put big touch on the ball—the balls on the sideline to (Lockett). He was just so good today, and I'm so thrilled for him."
In his third start in relief of an injured Russell Wilson, Smith completed 20 of 24 pass attempts for 195 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him a 128.3 passer rating, and he also scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal to cap Seattle's first scoring drive. Sunday's win was undoubtedly a team effort, with the Seahawks excelling in all three phases of the game, but Smith's performance was particularly noteworthy for Smith considering how long he had been waiting for this moment. A starter in his first two seasons, Smith has been a backup for the Jets, Giants and Chargers over the past six seasons, and in his first two-plus games in relief of Wilson, the Seahawks had fallen just short of a win each time.
"It was a great day for Geno, he just deserves it," Carroll said. "He's been such a great Seahawk and all of that. He played his way through this game, nobody gave him anything, he earned this thing today by playing great football."
Multiple players talked Sunday about how the team has rallied around Smith in recent weeks since Wilson went down with a finger injury, including receiver DK Metcalf, who was on the receiving end of both of Smith's touchdowns.
"That's amazing for him just to dial it up," Metcalf said of Smith's 14-for-14 start. "Short passes, long passes, he was in the zone."
After the game, Smith repeatedly downplayed the significance of the win for him on an individual level, but he did note how special the support he has felt from his teammates and Seahawks fans has been not just in recent weeks but throughout his three seasons in Seattle.
"They have been supportive since they day I got here," Smith said. "I said that the team has embraced me, the city has embraced me, and it's really refreshing. With the history I had, having gone to two or three teams, to have somewhere to settle in, work, and get to know everybody, it's really refreshing. Just having teammates, these guys are tremendous in the locker room. Win, lose, or draw, we stick together. We always play together, and we always play to win. We got a win today, but having those teammates, it makes you want to do the right thing and always try to get the win."
As for that streak of completions to start the game, Smith said he is aware of that as it's happening because he expects to complete every pass when one is called.
"I'm always counting in my head, that's just how I have always played the game," he said. "You want to complete every single ball, that's the reality. If coach calls a pass, I want to complete it badly. Sometimes you have to throw it away, just because you are doing the right thing, but the reality is that in my head, even in practice, I'm counting to try and make sure that I'm completing the majority of my passes. I don't have to look up, I literally count in my head and keep track of them."
Through three-plus games in relief of Wilson, Smith now has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and one interception, giving him a solid 103.0 passer rating, strong numbers for any quarterback, but especially for a backup who hasn't been a regular starter since 2014, his second year in the league.
"He's been around and played a whole bunch of football," said Tyler Lockett, who had 12 catches for 142 yards. "It's not like he's a rookie that's coming in and trying to figure everything out. We know what he's capable of and all that stuff. I think the biggest thing is just people can put so many expectations on you, especially when Russ has been here for 10 straight years. For us being able to rally behind Geno and really be able to tell him, 'We know what you can do, what type of player you are. You've shown it your whole entire career. We just want you to be you.'… He knows who he is. He's always going to be himself. For us as players, coaches, we have to be able to learn how to play through what people do best. I think that's what we were able to do today."
Carroll sees Sunday's performance as a sign that Smith has enough playing time under his belt over the past few weeks to be up to speed having not seen any significant playing time in his previous two-plus seasons with the Seahawks prior to Wilson's injury. The plan had been to get Smith a lot of playing time in the preseason, but he suffered a concussion early in the first game and missed the next two games. So with his preseason essentially taking place in these recent games, Smith has had to knock off a little rust, but on Sunday he was the type of quarterback the Seahawks know he can be.
"He plays some of the Rams game, then full game, full game, that would have been the same kind of play time (in the preseason) that we thought he would need for prep to get ready for the season, knowing he was going to take a back seat to Russ," Carroll said. "… This week he put it all together; I think it took him this long. He hasn't played enough football, he just hasn't played in a long time."
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in their eighth game of the 2021 season at Lumen Field. This album will be updated throughout the game. Game Action photos are presented by Washington Lottery.