DETROIT — Just before the two-minute warning, Chaka Khan and Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good” blared over the Ford Field speakers as officials reviewed a play prompted by a coach’s challenge. That particular ruling went the Lions’ way, but as far as good news went Sunday, it was Seahawks fans who got the best of it.
It was news that 12s weren’t sure they’d get this season, even if it was hinted at through the first three weeks. But here it is: Seattle has a legitimate quarterback in Geno Smith. Maybe even a star.
No longer should you view the 10th-year veteran as a longtime backup. Not after he took the struggling Seahawks and lifted them back up.
No longer is he a second-stringer whom the Seahawks are forced to start. Now he’s a Pro Bowl hopeful who just took a win by force.
Smith was the centerpiece in the Seahawks’ 48-45 victory over Detroit on Sunday, where his prowess was matched only by his poise. It wasn’t long ago that most Seahawks fans were counting the days till next season — but if their signal caller keeps playing like this, you can’t count them out.
“He literally does everything that Russ (Russell Wilson) does,” said Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny, comparing Smith to the man he backed up for three years. “He’s hot right now, one of the hottest in the league. … I’m blessed to be a part of it.”
Here’s Smith’s stat line from Sunday — 23 of 30 passing for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He never took a sack, he ran for 49 yards and a touchdown on seven carries and none of the nine drives he engineered ended with a punt or turnover.
The only time the Seahawks’ offense failed to score (when it wasn’t in victory formation, at least) was when Jason Myers missed a 39-yard field goal, the NFL equivalent of a 3-foot putt. Smith wasn’t a game manager Sunday — he was a game changer.
Still, though that was Geno’s best career performance, it wasn’t completely out of nowhere. He came into Detroit with an NFL-leading 77.5 completion percentage while posting a passer rating of 100.8, good for seventh in the league. The only real criticism he endured was his inability to post points in the second half, but that stigma is gone after the Seahawks (2-2) scored 14 in the third quarter vs. the Lions and 10 in the fourth.
So now that Smith has put up, his teammates wish doubters would shut up.
Has Geno played above expectations?
“Listen man, it’s Week 4. Let’s stop talking about that guy,” said Seahawks tight end Will Dissly, implying that Smith had proven himself well before Sunday’s masterstroke.
Added receiver DK Metcalf, who had seven catches for 149 yards: “He’s been on fire all year. … I don’t think (today) was any different. Geno’s been Geno since Day 1.”
I don’t know. Sunday looked different than the other ones — and not just because the Lions have one of the worst defenses in the league. Smith controlled the game in ways we haven’t seen before, perhaps best evidenced by his audible on a third-and-16 in the third quarter, when a would-be pass play turned into a 36-yard scoring run by Penny. He was also composed under collapsing pockets, regularly prolonging plays to find open receivers and extend drives.
When Seahawks receiver Tyler Locket was asked about Smith’s ability to hang tight under pressure, he channeled a budding refrain among the Lumen Field faithful.
“Hey, man — ‘Ge-no! Ge-no!'” Lockett said.
Of course, Lockett also pointed out how fickle the media can be — changing their opinions wholesale on a week-to-week basis. Can’t say I’ve been guilt-free on that end, as I wrote last Sunday that the Seahawks season felt close to over after a home loss to the lowly Falcons. Not sure a win over a 1-3 Lions squad that ranks 30th in total defense changes that.
But Smith has gone from serviceable at the start of the season to superb in Week 4 — and may be on the road to downright special. The universally-agreed-upon downgrade after the Wilson trade has, incredibly, looked like an upgrade through four games.
Is this the peak? Smith says no. Not even close.
“I can play better,” he said. “I’m definitely not exceeding my expectations. I can play a lot better.”
That’s TBD, but it would be a bonanza if true. Because Sunday’s performance? It doesn’t get much better than that.