With the Seahawks looking to close out a win on Saturday night, the Cowboys needed a fourth-down conversion to keep their chances alive in the game's final minutes.
But as Cowboys quarterback Will Grier backpedaled away from pressure looking to make a play, he was pursued by several Seahawks, with outside linebacker Tyreke Smith eventually hauling him down for a game-clinching sack.
It was Smith's seventh tackle of the game and second tackle for loss, capping a strong performance for the second-year linebacker out of Ohio State who missed his entire rookie season due to a hip injury.
"Tyreke Smith had a really nice game," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "… He did well tonight. Now, it's taken him some time in camp. But he had a really impressive week. You could see it coming. The fact that he goes out and does it in the game, it's kind of what you hope happens from the coaching perspective. He did it. He was quick, assertive. He used his calls and stunts and things really well to make plays in the backfield from the backside. He was a really active player in college. We never even saw him last year. We practiced for two days. Never even had a clue. It seems like, yeah, the rust is getting knocked off and he's really ready to contribute and play for us. A good ballplayer. In that rotation with our guys, he has to try to get in that rotation with our guys."
For Smith, Saturday's game in which he saw a ton of playing time was a welcome change after missing his entire rookie season aside from a few practices in offseason workouts.
"It's been great, man," he said. "My last game was my first competitive game in two years. Every moment I get on the field is like surreal, and I just thank God for putting me in this position and giving me the guidance and the strength to be here. Thank the team, they've been rallying behind me. It's been a great camp, just working every day, trying to stack days, make sure I get better each day."
On missing his rookie season, Smith said, "It was hard, but I didn't really look at it as a negative. I looked at it as a positive to increase my mental, get stronger in my foundation and it gave me a chance to get my body all the way healthy so I could give the team the impact that they needed."
And it wasn't just Smith's performance that has Carroll excited about how his team is set up at outside linebacker, it's that there are so many players at that position he knows they can count on to perform. With Uchenna Nwosu leading the way at that position, the Seahawks have, including Smith, at least five players who they see as being part of a deep rotation there. Darrell Taylor, who is currently sidelined by a shoulder injury, or 2022 second-round pick Boye Mafe figures to start opposite Nwosu, while Derick Hall, a second-rounder in this year's draft, also is expected to be a factor.
Even with Taylor not playing, Saturday's win over Dallas highlighted the depth at that position. In addition to Smith's big game, Boye Mafe contributed two passes defensed, two tackles and a quarterback hit in the first half, while Hall added a fourth-quarter sack. Nwosu only played one series, but still helped get pressure on a third-down play that ended up as a Jarran Reed sack.
"I think Boye did a nice job tonight," Carroll said. "I don't know what Uchenna got done. Darrell is going to come roaring back here next week. I would bet he's pretty close. It's that competition for those guys. We'll see how it goes."
Whether Mafe or Taylor starts, the Seahawks figure to rotate frequently to keep players fresh at those positions, so four or even five outside linebacker should see significant playing time regardless of who is officially a starter.
"I like these guys," Carroll. "I really like these guys. I don't mind who is in the game. We have four or five guys that are playing. We like them all. If we can keep them fresh and keep them really fast, that's going to be a great asset for us."
Check out some of the best action shots from Preseason Week 2 vs. the Dallas Cowboys at Lumen Field on August 19, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery. This album will be updated throughout the game.