For years, the Seattle Seahawks and their offense relied on creativity, escapism and elusiveness from the quarterback position. That fact did not change as the 2022 season kicked off for the Seahawks.
The only change is that those moments came from Geno Smith.
In the most shocking result of a wild Week 1 of the NFL season, Smith and the Seahawks upset Wilson and the Denver Broncos 17-16, with Denver opting for a 64-yard field goal attempt at the end of the game. The kick from Brandon McManus was off the mark, sending the Seattle fans home elated.
The missed field goal attempt, coupled with the decisions from first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett that led to the miss, are the focal point of discussion in the wake of the game. But the contest’s final moments should not overshadow what we saw from Smith against Denver, particularly in the first half of the game. Smith finished the night having completed 23 of 28 passes for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he did not throw an interception in the victory. And it was his pocket management, creativity and elusiveness, particularly in the first half, that paved the way for the win.
Those traits showed up early in the victory, on Seattle’s first possession of the game. On their first drive of the season, the Seahawks faced a 3rd-and-3 in their own territory. With the pocket collapsing around him, Smith stood tall and fired a strike to Tyler Lockett to move the chains:
This is a great example of a quarterback keeping his eyes up as the pocket starts to crack and pressure poses a threat. Even as Randy Gregory closes in, Smith keeps his eyes in the secondary and finds Locket over the middle to move the chains.
That drive ended with this brilliant bit of elusiveness from Smith, as he escapes from multiple points of pressure and turns a would-be sack into Seattle’s first touchdown of the 2022 season:
Smith is forced into survival mode early in the down, as linebacker Alex Singleton blitzes through the interior and gets a hand on the quarterback. But Smith escapes, and as he vacates the pocket towards the line of scrimmage, he keeps his eyes downfield, allowing him to spot tight end Will Dissly wide open. A simple flick of the wrist from Smith, and the Seahawks have the lead.
Smith’s ability to escape pressure while keeping his eyes trained downfield showed up later in the first half, on this 16-yard gain to Marquise Goodwin along the left sideline:
Again, the Broncos seem to have Smith trapped in the pocket. Pass rusher Dre’Mont Jones slips past the left guard, and has the quarterback in his sights. Smith, as he did on the previous example, wriggles himself free from the defender and attacks the line of scrimmage, still keeping his eyes trained downfield. He manages to spot Goodwin along the sideline and drops in a perfect throw to move the chains.
That play helped extend the drive, which ended with Smith hitting tight end Colby Parkinson up the right seam for his second touchdown pass of the night:
The picture changed somewhat in the second half, as the Broncos were able to capitalize more often when they pressured Smith in the pocket. Bradley Chubb posted a pair of sacks in the fourth quarter, including one early in the quarter where he forced the ball out of Smith’s hands, and only a quick recover from rookie left tackle Charles Cross prevented the turnover:
By then, however, the Broncos were in catch-up mode, and the stage was set for the game’s stunning final act. While the end-of-game sequence likely grabs the headlines in the hours and days ahead, what we saw from Smith, particularly in the first half, should not go ignored. After the game, Smith was asked about his performance, and his career, and delivered the line of the night:
When he was pressed into action last season due to an injury to Wilson, Smith showed the ability to fight in the pocket, and create with his legs when necessary. It was a trait that led some to believe that the job would be his to win, and keep, in Seattle.
It then led to a win in Week 1.