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“Relax, it’s just football.” That’s what Pro Bowler Geno Smith, who four months ago was the most laughable starting quarterback in the league, told his teammates just before leading a game-winning drive that ultimately put the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. It was latest in a string of gilded one-liners from the most improbable hero in the NFL, a series of stone-cold bars starting with “They wrote me off... I didn’t write back though” after Week 1 and culminating with his “John Candy” moment this afternoon.
This team was not supposed to accomplish anything but a high draft pick this season. Counted out by nearly everyone, the Seahawks went out and won more games than they lost, and made the playoffs on the backs of a bunch of rookies, a castoff QB, and a group of role players most people outside of the Pacific Northwest had never heard of.
This season represents the absolute upper echelon of possible outcomes for this team, and it ain’t even over yet.
The game did not start out nearly as triumphantly as it finished. Jalen Ramsey, who got completely worked by DK Metcalf in the first meeting, kicked off a stellar performance by picking Geno Smith off on the first snap of the game. On that play, Ramsey tailed Metcalf on a little in-route and expertly undercut the receiver to snag the pass and return it to Seattle’s 10. You knew memories from the last time these teams met had been stuck in Ramsey’s brain like a pieces of steak caught between his teeth— and his retribution today came swiftly.
Fortunately, the Seattle defense understood the assignment and, despite making their debut long before they expected to, forced a quick three-and-out, escaping with just a 3-0 deficit. It happened because Cody Barton, who was filling in for the injured Jordyn Brooks, sprinted out to catch Cam Akers on a swing pass that initially looked like a walk-in touchdown. It would end up mattering— a lot.
Having skirted disaster, at least for the moment, the Seahawks offense reset and embarked an 11-play drive, including five runs for 44 yards, that ended in a Jason Myers field goal. 3-3 and everyone’s nerves got a chance to settle.
The Rams failed to get a first down on their second drive as well, a fate sealed by a beautifully-timed corner blitz that resulted in a 3rd down sack by Coby Bryant. The ensuing punt was punctuated by a 20-yard Deejay Dallas return to set the ‘Hawks up at midfield. Their next possession would last eight plays and cover 31 yards, with Smith and Ken Walker III each rushing for first downs. The march was derailed by a false start on 3rd down, however, and Seattle was forced to accept another field goal for their efforts. 6-3.
Not to be outdone, the Rams leveraged a long Cam Akers run to tie the game with yet another kick. After the unmatched exhilaration of four field goals died down, the contest settled into a punting contest, with the two teams exchanging fruitless drives until there were just three minutes left in the half.
When these teams met a month and a half ago, Los Angeles scored twice early on the back of a bunch of perimeter handoffs and jet sweeps, but they’d been unable to recreate that success so far in this one. That changed on their fifth possession, when they drove 87 yards on nine plays, culminating with a reverse to Tutu Atwell that covered the final 11 yards for a touchdown. On the play Atwell, who is literally smaller than an atom, snuck between all the full-sized adults and ducked into the endzone to give his team a 13-6 lead with 29 seconds left. It was an old-fashioned gut punch to a Seahawks team that was having trouble finding any real rhythm on offense and halftime arrived to a very muffled vibe in the stadium.
To make matters even more somber, the Rams received the kick to start the third quarter but Seattle’s defense came out hot. Four consecutive Akers runs netted one first down but Darrell Taylor snuffed out the possession with his 3.5th sack in the last two games. That play injected some adrenaline into the home team’s veins and the offense responded with their best drive of the game. After (welcome home) Bobby Wagner wrapped Walker III up for a loss on first down, Smith hit Colby Parkinson for 15 yards. On the next snap, he dropped back and rifled a throw over the middle to Metcalf, who caught it in stride and crumpled Bellingham native Taylor wrap like a piece of scrap paper. DK Metcalf’s signature move has become the decimation of would-be tacklers that hit him at full speed, flipping the bird to the laws of physics at the point of contact. This observation isn’t a swipe at Rapp, who is a very good player, it’s merely an acknowledgement that he may as well have been trying to tackle a garbage truck whose brakes had been cut.
Walker III followed that up with a savvy 15-yard run and Geno pounced on the scrambling Rams defense immediately afterward. After picking up first downs on three consecutive plays, Smith stood strong at the top of his dropback, stepped into his throw, and went pocket-to-Lockett for 36 yards down the seam and the game-tying touchdown. An immaculate throw that counter-balanced a very rough first half. 13-13.
After the Rams responded with a field goal drive to retake the lead, Geno threw one of his worst passes of the season. Trying to dial up Metcalf again, Smith aired his pass well behind his his god-bodied receiver and straight into the hands of Ramsey, who made sure all of Seattle knew about it afterwards. That pick gave Jalen as many catches on the day as the guy he was guarding, and swung the odds of winning sternly in LA’s favor. Undaunted, the Seahawks would force consecutive Rams punts, sandwiched around one of their own, and the game barreled towards its low-scoring finish.
When Seattle next got the ball, they were still down three with under ten minutes to play. What followed was a stilted but effective 16-play drive to pull even. It was a possession that probably shouldn’t have happened, as the Seahawks initially went three-and-out; but Michael Dickson expertly sold the contact on his punt and was rewarded with a “running into the kicker” flag for his theatrical efforts. Granted a crucial reprieve, Geno and Co went to work.
After a sack on 1st down, Smith hit Colby Parkinson deep on a 32-yard shot then chased it with an 11-yarder to the well-drink of Seahawks receivers, Dareke Young. A quick-hitter to Metcalf and two run plays netted nine yards, bringing up 4th & 1 from the Rams’ 22. With the season on the line, and Seattle’s defense outplaying their offensive counterparts, the temptation to kick a game-tying field goal must have been strong. But Peter Clay Carroll checked the size of his balls and, upon finding them massive and pendulous, kept the offense on the field. Bringing in extra blockers, they tossed the ball to Walker III, who scooted ahead for nine yards thanks in large part to a huge block from Charles Cross.
Smith scrambled for nine on the next play and Walker careened down to the 2 to set up 1st & goal with less than three minutes remaining. Refusing to get cute, the Seahawks wisely ran the ball on the next three plays, using up valuable clock and a couple of Rams timeouts. Unfortunately, they were unable to bang the ball home, with LA highlighting their goal line stand on a remarkable flying tackle by Ramsey on what looked like a sure touchdown from Walker III. The desperate stop brought Myers out to tie the game, which he calmly did, and the Rams got the ball back with two minutes left in a 16-16 game.
The Seahawks defense, which has been weirdly good all of a sudden, held again, forcing a three-and-out and giving their offense one last chance to win it in regulation. Taking over from his own 20, and with just 56 seconds remaining, Smith got to work. He hit Cade Johnson(?) for 10 then followed that up with a deft 25-yard scramble exacerbated by a well-baited late hit penalty against Ramsey. That put the ball on Los Angeles’ 30 with 32 seconds and no timeouts left. I would have loved to see the Seahawks try to get closer with a pass here, but they chose to run it instead, with Walker III gaining two yards and Smith spiking it with three seconds on the clock. That brought out Jason Myers, who was 3-3 on the day and who has been the most accurate kicker in the NFL this season, to try and win it from 46 yards out. Myers approached the hold and swung his leg through the kick, playing a baby draw that started out wide of the right upright before curling back towards glory. If the attempt had been a yard further back, I think it goes through, but that damned goalpost got it the way and doinked the ball awry. Myers stared in disbelief as the Rams celebrated and the two teams prepared themselves for overtime. Because of course.
The Seahawks won the toss and received the ball, but unceremoniously dismounted from their drive after three plays. That put the onus back on the defense, and they came through in the biggest way possible. After a designed Baker Mayfield run got swallowed up for a loss by Uchenna Nwosu, Mayfield tried to get all back and more with a bomb up the left sideline, intended for Van jefferson. For a moment, it looked like a hige game-swinging completion but Quandre Diggs teleported in from another dimension and picked the pass off.
The stadium erupted and it just felt like it was time. That’s when Geno delivered on the tantalizing promise he’s been dangling in front of Seahawks fans all season long. An incomplete attempt to Metcalf was followed up by a bailout completion to Tyler Lockett on a late crosser that the elven receiver turned upfield for 17. The next play saw Walker III dart through the defense and sprint for 20, putting the ball on LA’s 27. Two more Walker III runs gained another first down and three more set Myers up for redemption. This time, there was no doubt. Unfazed by his earlier miss, Myers steadily banged the kick down the middle and sent Lumen Field into an uproar.
19-16. 9-8. Time to sweat out the Lions game.
~Geno Smith went 19/31 for 213 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Despite a rather lackluster final month, statistically speaking, he finishes the season ranking 8th in passing yards, 4th in passing touchdowns, and 5th in passer rating. Not even Geno’s family saw that coming.
~Ken Walker III carried the ball 29 times for 114 yards, surpassing 1,000 rushing yards in the process. He finishes his rookie campaign with 1,050 rushing yards, good for 12th in the league despite being the youngest starting running back in the NFL. His 4.6 YPC ranked 13th among players with more than 170 attempts and his nine rushing touchdowns puts him in the top 10 league-wide. Add in 165 yards receiving and you’ve got yourself one hell of a debut from a guy that didn’t start until Week 6.
~DK Metcalf scuffled to the finish line, notching three catches for 40 yards to follow up a quiet 1-for-3 effort last week. Still, his 90 catches is good for 12th most in the NFL this season and his 1,048 yards ranks 16th.
Tyler Lockett caught four balls for 54 yards and a score, seeing him finish his 2022 campaign with 84 grabs for 1,033 yards and his nine receiving touchdowns was bested by just five players league wide.
The Seahawks had two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for just the second time in franchise history.
~Charles Cross and Abe Lucas were one of the only pair of rookies ever to start at right and left tackles in Week 1, and neither of them missed a single game before Lucas was inactive today. They both weathered the inevitable growing pains to earn rave reviews league-wide.
~Darrell Taylor finished the year strong, ending up with 9.5 sacks after a muted start to the season. He was joined at that number by unheralded free agent pickup Uchenna Nwosu, and each player experienced unblockable hot streaks. Adding one more pass rusher to that tandem, and getting further development from late-charging Boye Mafe, could have this defense looking rather fierce next season.
Despite basically not playing the final two games, Jordyn Brooks winds up with 161 tackles, good for 6th in the NFL. His LB-mate Cody barton notched seven of his own today to finish with 136 and crack the top 15 in the process.
~Tariq Woolen managed to flash in all 17 games he played as a rookie and his six interceptions tied for the league lead. Coby Bryant had a sack among his six tackles this afternoon and wraps up his first campaign with the 3rd-most forced fumbles in football. What a pair these two are shaping up to be.
~Jason Myers’ final kick not only sent the Seahawks to the playoffs, it made him the highest-scoring player in the NFL this season. His 143 points was tops in the league, as he finished a remarkable 34/37 on field goal attempts and 41/42 on extra points.
~Michael Dickson averaged 46.6 yards per punt today and 48.5 yards per punt on the season, good for 7th in the NFL. Seattle’s special teams were really good this season and are a huge reason the Seahawks are playoff bound.
~Pete Carroll, man. Wow. I’ve been hard on the guy for a number of years and I think I’ll just shut up now. Absolute masterclass from the Hall of Fame coach this season.
Seattle winning this game was only factor in the playoff equation. They handled their part, making us all sweat out the end of the weekend crowded around the showdown between the hard-charging Green Bay Packers and the upstart Detroit Lions. Both teams were 8-8 but if Green Bay won, they’d leap Seattle in the standings and knock our boys out of the ‘yoffs. Instead, the Lions showe grit and poise, gutting out a 20-16 victory on the back of a ballsy 4th down conversion and the party in the PNW was on.
I don’t care what happens next. the Seahawks will head to San Francisco to face a 49ers team on Saturday that has whooped their ass twice this season. The Niners come in on a 10-game heater, playing like the best team in football for the better part of three months after a 3-4 start. Seattle will undoubtedly and deservedly be major underdogs in that one, but who gives a shit? The Seahawks are gambling with house money at this point, having slapped the taste out of the haters’ mouths and marching their way belligerently into the postseason. Any advancement from here would simply be the latest in a string of miracles dating back to their opening night victory.
But I’m not spending one minute of tonight worrying about next week’s game because the motherfucking Seattle Seahawks are in the playoffs, baby. So sit back, pour a drink and if you’ve got one, light up a stogie. The party continues for at least six more days, so let’s live it up. Onward, upward, and go ‘Hawks.
I wrote this article on the beaches of Cabo San Lucas, after watching the game in a hotel bar surrounded by exasperated but good-natured Lions fans. I packed a Davidoff Year of the Rooster, pledging only to smoke it if the Seahawks somehow made the playoffs. They did, so I did. Hear me when I tell you this is a Mt Rushmore cigar for me. You will likely never see them on the open market, and if any still exist in this world, Seattle Cigar Concierge is your only hope. I let this exquisite stogie dance with a hefty pour of Glenlivet Founders Reserve and let the win wash over me like so many Pacific waves.
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