Geno Smith, for most of his career, was synonymous with the NFL’s most potent curse word: bust. Going into this season, even as he quietly showed maturity on the field, no one bought into the Seattle Seahawks as a competitive franchise. There were a number of reasons – sloppy game management and unknowns at cornerback, among them – but mostly it was rooted in a few people outside of Seattle seeing Smith as a legitimate NFL quarterback.
He continued to prove the doubters wrong on Sunday, leading the Seahawks to a 48-45 win over Detroit on the road. Smith was electric. He destroyed a poor Lions defense, throwing dimes to DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Will Dissly. All told, Smith was 23-of-30 for 320 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also added 49 rushing yards and a score on the ground. Smith notched back-to-back 300-yard passing games for the first time in his NFL career, a testament to Pete Carroll’s growing faith in his quarterback’s abilities.
Smith is not supposed to be here, still playing and winning games as a starter. His NFL career began with a thud: a star at West Virginia and once a potential top-10 pick in the 2013 draft, Smith fell to the New YorkJets in the second round at No. 39 overall. Smith said everything right about whether he was the first pick or the 39th pick, he was going into a good situation. He was not.
The Jets were at the end of the Rex Ryan era, short on skill players offensively and defensively. Smith had 34 interceptions and just 25 touchdowns in his first two seasons, and the New Yorkers, not known for their patience, stepped up. Whether it was a problem with the culture or the scheme (Smith ran the spread in college), he looked far from the next Joe Namath.
He may have had a chance to start fresh when Todd Bowles entered the building in 2015, but then the punch came. A teammate, IK Enemkpali, walked up to Smith in the locker room and confronted him over a dispute about a plane ticket, which broke the quarterback’s swagger. Smith’s teammates weren’t right to show their support, and Ryan Fitzpatrick became a regular starter. Then Smith tore his ACL and his Jets career was effectively over.
Somehow, though he It was the person who was punched rather than the other way around, Smith’s label was the problem. Quarterbacks who start with such disturbances are usually left dead – especially the young Black ones of the mid-2010s. But Smith got healthy and bounced around the league, getting spot chances here and there before becoming Russell Wilson’s backup in 2019.
He did well when he had to quit, but the Seahawks were Wilson’s team … until they weren’t. Smith survived a battle with Drew Lock – and trade rumors for Jimmy Garoppolo – and, for the first time in eight years, was a Week 1 starter.
Smith’s resurrection from quarterback purgatory is good news in itself. But he is not a substitute as the team rebuilds. His decision-making has been great for the most part, as we saw in Sunday’s win over Detroit and the upset of Wilson’s Broncos in Week 1. It’s a much more mature brand of quarterbacking.
As Smith said before the season: “I don’t have to make every play, I don’t have to play hero ball.”
Smith now leads a stable franchise, knows the playbook, has a better defense than Wilson ever had (thanks to the Seahawks turning the first round pick from trading Wilson into starting LT Charles Cross ), and can rely on elite receivers.
We are only four weeks into the season and anything can happen. But in a weak NFC, why not Geno and the Seahawks?
MVP of the week
Saquon Barkley, running back, New York Giants. In case there was any doubt, SAQUON IS BACK. A now healthy Barkley continued his comeback, this time powering the Giants with a strange 20-12 win over the Chicago Bears. Barkley put up 146 yards on the ground, and leads the NFL in rushing.
And in the fourth quarter with Daniel Jones out with an ankle injury and Tyrod Taylor suffering from a helmet-to-helmet hit, Barkley grabbed his Cape and assumed the quarterback role (okay, the wildcat quarterback role). However, with Barkley taking direct snaps, the Giants have maintained a narrow lead and now sit at 3-1 in a surprisingly competitive NFC East.
Video of the week
I have no say in this either. Lamar Jackson continues to make magic in ways we haven’t seen since Michael Vick.
Jackson was on the losing end of this week’s quarterback battle royale against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, falling 23-20. The Ravens will have to figure out how they lost a 20-3 lead. It got worse: tied at 20-20 with just over four minutes left and very little in the second half of the Ravens’ offense, John Harbaugh opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal instead of opting for a field goal and a near-certain three points . lead. Instead Jackson threw a pick that helped set up Buffalo’s game-winning field goal.
The situation of the week
Four. Did Trevor Lawrence know there would be such a big hit in Philadelphia? Has he ever played in the rain? These are the questions we’re asking after Lawrence turned the ball over five times, including all four lost fumbles in Jacksonville’s 29-21 loss to Philadelphia. That makes Lawrence the first player this century to foul out four times in a game.
The Jaguars led 14-0 and looked like they might catch the last undefeated team. But the Eagles’ defense followed up last week’s nine-sack performance with another gem.
Quote of the week
“This is a game we had to win, for sure. We can’t be 2-2 losing with a quarter-final goal” – Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers praised the “third-string quarterback” also known as New England Patriots rookie Bailey Zappe.
It is an exciting watch. Zapp. Rodgers. Over time. The rookie entered the game when cornerback Brian Hoyer left with a head injury. The Patriots ran a run-heavy offense with Zappe but he had a controversial 25-yard throw to DeVante Parker. After a lackluster first half, Rodgers came alive in the second and led the Green Bay Packers to a game-winning field goal deep in overtime. Because of course he did.
Elsewhere throughout the series
The Tom Brady-Patrick Mahomes series now stands at 3-3 after the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41-31 on Sunday Night Football. Brady turned in his best performance of the season, finishing with three touchdowns and no interceptions for 385 yards passing. But he had no rushing game to back it up as the Bucs managed just three yards on six carries on the ground. Mahomes was typically over the top, pulling off a number of fumbles, including the ridiculous attempt below.
Social media calls to bench Mitchell Trubisky for Kenny Pickett came. The rookie replaced Trubisky, who has featured near the pocket in three and a half games this season. Pickett’s first pass in the NFL was an interception (just like Peyton Manning’s) and he would throw two more picks that the Steelers defend in a 24-20 loss to the New York Jets. But he offered more options than Trubisky, and he had two rushing touchdowns.
Baker Mayfield’s career reorganization in Carolina continues to strain. Of course, the Panthers are a pretty weak team and the Arizona Cardinals defense bothered him throughout the day but Mayfield’s struggles aren’t just down to others. Panthers fans booed the former No. 1 full pick during the 26-16 loss to the Cardinals as he threw receivers, batted down passes and gave away three turnovers. Anyone for a little Sam Darnold?
The Las Vegas Raiders are no longer undefeated! They beat the Denver Broncos 32-23 thanks to a big rushing day, recording 212 yards on the ground. Russell Wilson had a strong game but Denver often failed to take advantage of good field position.
The Cowboys have a history of excellent quarterbacks. But Cooper Rush topped them all in one category, becoming the first Cowboys quarterback to win his first four starts. Rush again provided a steady, if not flashy, presence, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns, completing 15-of-27 attempts. But it was Dallas’ defense that secured a dominant 25-10 victory over Washington. DeMarcus Lawrence had seven quarterback pressures, continuing his bid for Defensive Player of the Year.
The dominoes continue to fall after Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion Thursday night, four days after he re-entered a game against the Bills despite being shaken up after being driven into the ground. The NFLPA fired the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who cleared Tagovailoa last Sunday, although the NFL and NFLPA issued a joint statement that they have not yet reached any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations. The league and union also agreed to update their concussion protocol. Moving forward, any player exhibiting gross motor instability will be automatically ejected from a game.
JJ Watt dropped some very timely medical news of its own.
We are thankful that he is healthy, first of all. But it seems little wonder he was cleared to play on Sunday.