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Cigar Thoughts, Game 15: The wheels on the bus are falling off...

The Kansas City Chiefs opened up an early two-score lead and maintained it throughout their 24-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

***As most of you know, Cigar Thoughts is now a podcast. One of the perks of the pod is getting these articles in audio form, in addition to our sit-downs with our amazing guests. You can listen to all the shows, including this article, right here:

Before we get to this game, happy Christmas and merry holidays to you guys. I hope that these next few days are safe, cozy, and full of love. It’s been a very challenging last few years and a lot of families have felt the stresses of the world, so here’s to you and yours finding peace and joy together this week.

And since I’ll be joining family shortly after this game ends, and because your time is precious this weekend, we’re gonna keep Cigar Thoughts tight today and skip straight to Smoke Rings. Not much game flow to discuss in this one anyhow.


~Geno Smith was very good when targeting DK Metcalf today and really struggled throwing to everyone else. He was under constant duress and generally kept his head, although his decision to force a deep pass down the middle on 3rd & 6 instead of easily running for a first down early in the third quarter was a head-scratcher. He had three very nice throws on the one touchdown drive— the seam route to Colby Parkinson, the redline throw to Laquon Treadwell on 4th & 8, and the scrambling bullet to Noah Fant for the touchdown. But it was all so much window dressing on a burned down house, given that they were down 21 with three minutes to go when it transpired.

Smith finished with a pretty underwhelming stat line, salvaged even to that degree only by the final garbage time drive. He completed 25 of 40 passes for 215 yards, a TD, and an interception.

In the absence of Tyler Lockett, there are some excuses that can be made for Smith— receivers dropped numerous easy passes and the interception may well have been a miscommunication with Marquis Goodwin*— but I don’t think those were the difference between this and a good game. He also had an endzone interception overturned on a penalty and another one saved by one of his linemen batting down a tipped ball at the line.

*Although Geno said that one was on him after the game— but of course he did. He’s an ace.

Much has been made about Geno’s low turnover rate this season but I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that he’s been getting lucky on a number of poor throws (dropped interceptions, turnovers negated by penalties, etc). Then I saw this tweet from Steven O’Rourke earlier this week:

Forget the Russell Wilson part— I’m not here to talk about that. There are two things that jump out to me about this and they both track with what my eyes have told me this season. The first is the Wow-Throw%, which ranks 3rd in the NFL. The other is the Turnover-Worthy-Throw%, which sits in the bottom 10% of all qualifying QBs.

This paints the picture not of the game manager many of us expected Smith to be this season, but of a balls-clanging gunslinger absolutely unafraid to challenge tight windows. And overall, I kinda like it; he’s been really accurate. But there’s a mosquito that keeps biting the back of my brain and that’s the feeling that Geno has been pretty lucky this season. If you reverse-engineer Smith’s numbers coming into this game, that’s 23 turnover-worthy throws (however they grade that) but only eight interceptions. There were at least three more turnover-worthy throws in this one and only one of them got picked off. There is a low-grade fear in me that interception regression could hit Geno like a bus.

Smith’s play has struggled a bit in the back half of this season and while the season-long numbers still sparkle, his recent performance gives me a little more pause about extending him for really meaningful money. I’m still in favor of the notion but it’s more like 60/40 now whereas that was closer to 90/10 a month ago.

~Ken Walker III is such an aesthetically pleasing runner and he had his best game in a long time this afternoon. It got off to a rough start though, as half the handoffs he took in the first half saw him run straight into the rump of whichever blocker was getting pushed back into his face. It was a continuance of the frustrating theme of Seattle failing to get a forward push on run plays and Walker III had just 10 yards to show for his first eight carries as a result.

In the third quarter, however, they started to test the perimeter of Kansas City’s defensive front and that led to a handful of big runs that, in turn, helped open up the rest of the playbook. With the run game back on schedule, Walker III had room to showcase what made him one of the elite running back prospects in the draft. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the shimmies, shakes, and absurd change of direction that vaulted Walker III into the Rookie of the Year conversation earlier this season, and he was out there finding yards that few others could on a day when almost no one else was.

He finished with 107 yards on 26 carries, and with Seattle needing to win their final two games, performances like this will be crucial against New York and Los Angeles.

~The receivers were miserable, DK Metcalf aside. Metcalf knew he’d need to command the lion’s share of Smith’s targets today and the defense did also. But even with greater-than-normal attention being paid to him, DK turned his nine chances into seven catches for 81 yards— including a gorgeous diving 35-yarder. Frankly, he’s the best player on the team right now and he did all he could with a brutal assignment.

Tyler Lockett’s absence was felt in a major way today, as everyone not named DK Metcalf struggled to create any separation. There were poorly-run routes, drops, and general bad vibes from Marquis Goodwin, Laquon Treadwell, and Penny Hart. Non-Metcalf wide receivers received 13 targets, catching just four of them for 28 yards. Yuck.

~The tight ends were silent for most of the game but each of them chipped in with a nice moment late. Will Dissly caught his only target for 19 yards, Colby Parkinson caught three of four for 45 including a 39-yarder late, and Noah Fant snagged the late touchdown to finish with two catches for 12 yards on three opportunities.

~The offensive line got their asses kicked early, again, but actually played pretty well in the second half. The wall that they seemed to hit around midseason remained unmoved in the first half but they actually made some progress in the game’s final 30 minutes. Still, their inability to consistently win, or even fight to a draw, is nuking this offense’s best laid plans and the team managed just 10 points on a day where their defense played pretty well. Charles Cross and Abe Lucas have exceeded their previous career highs in snaps so I can understand the rookies starting to give ground a bit, but the interior OL is all veterans and they look completely overmatched. With a lean market at those positions in the upcoming free agency period, I wouldn’t mind if Seattle absolutely hammers guard and center in the draft.

~If playing defense in the NFL is advanced algebra, facing the Chiefs is quantum physics. But despite that, and their own recent struggles, the Seahawks defense did pretty well. They spent a lot of time on the field as their offense struggled to get first downs and still held Andy Reid’s juggernaut below their season average.

The run defense was excellent, a major reversal from recent performance, keeping the Chiefs to 77 yards on 22 carries. They stayed assignment-correct and tackled well, another trait they’ll need to sustain if they wanna make a playoff push over the last two weeks.

The secondary did well also, although they’ve been pretty stout lately. Patrick Mahomes, who for my money is this year’s MVP, was a fairly average 16 of 28 for 224 yards and two TDs though he did add an acrobatic touchdown run as well. Still, given the cornucopia of weapons at Mahomes’ disposal, I think Seattle’s pass defense acquitted themselves pretty well.

~Godwin Igwebuike is a delight. He simply moves different than any Seahawks kick returner since Percy Harvin. And while he’s certainly not on Harvin’s level, he combines twitchy directional change with easy acceleration and has revitalized Seattle’s return game. He had an electric 48-yard return in the first quarter and is averaging over 30 yards per since joining the Seahawks.

~Jason Myers, perfect again on two attempts today. He’s now 60-62 on the season.

~The Seahawks continue to struggle on 3rd down and it has so much to do with the imposing average length-to-gain they’re facing. They were an awful 2-14 on 3rd downs today, mitigated slightly by aggressive play-calling that led to a 3-6 mark on 4th down. It’s just so damn hard to score when you’re behind the sticks as often as Seattle was this afternoon.

~Pretty clean from a penalty standpoint after a rough opening few possessions. Halfway through the second quarter, Seattle had been flagged five times but they only committed one more foul the rest of the way. 39 total penalty yards is quite acceptable.

~Clock management was atrocious, as Seattle burned a total of four timeouts— two in each half— when they couldn’t get properly settled before the play-clock wound down. This was a real strong suit during the first nine games of the season but they’ve been a lot less combobulated of late. Hope that gets cleaned up.

Believe it or not, Seattle’s path to the playoffs didn’t get much harder today— at least not as of this writing. The Giants lost, the Lions lost, and the Commanders are currently losing. If that score holds, Seattle have a very legitimate path to the playoffs by beating the Jets and Rams to finish the season. If they do that, they’ll need just a little bit of help to sneak in and rubber stamp a season full of pleasant surprises. Again, this year is all about trajectory.

There will be plenty of time to fret over playoff odds and paths to the postseason later, however. In the meantime, please have a safe and happy holiday season. I love and appreciate y’all very much. Onward and upward.

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The 2022 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners in Bellingham, WA.