NFL News & Analysis

A look at Geno Smith's bounce-back performance against the Detroit Lions

2RWP0HN Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) runs the ball against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

For the longest time, Geno Smith was best known as the guy who broke his jaw after a teammate punched him in the face during a training camp argument.

The once-journeyman backup quarterback has since put that far in the rearview mirror, securing a vote of confidence to be the starting quarterback in Seattle following the Russell Wilson trade last season.

Smith got off to a phenomenal start, posting an 84.8 passing grade in his first eight starts, including three games where he had a passing grade of at least 90.0. However, starting in Week 9, Smith showed signs of regression. He earned a 64.0 passing grade from then until the end of the season, including Seattle’s wild-card loss to the 49ers.

That didn’t deter the Seahawks from rewarding Smith with a three-year, $105 million deal in the offseason to remain as QB1 in Seattle. His first start in 2023 under the new deal left a lot to be desired, though. He posted a 59.5 passing grade after completing just 16 of 30 passes for 112 yards. That also came with a measly 3.7 yards per attempt and zero big-time throws as the Seahawks fell to the Rams in Week 1. Some understandable concern set in that perhaps Smith’s dominant start to 2022 was a distant memory — and that the Seahawks had just thrown over $100 million at a backup-level quarterback.

Smith kept those doubts at bay with a strong performance against the Lions in Week 2.

He completed 33 of his 44 passing attempts — one of which was a big-time throw — for 344 yards and two touchdowns to earn a 78.2 passing grade. The big-time throw was a perfectly placed ball on a wheel route to Noah Fant down the sideline in the second quarter that gained 31 yards. Smith recorded 63.1% of his passing yards through the air — with only 39% via yards after the catch, which is a far cry from his Week 1 performance. Against the Rams, just 40.2% of Smith’s yardage was through the air and 66.1% came via yards after the catch. Smith’s yards per attempt more than doubled over the previous week, as the Seahawks averaged 7.8 yards on his throws against Detroit compared to 3.7 against Los Angeles.

Highest QB Grades | Week 2
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Pressure was an issue for Smith, though. His passing grade in such situations ended up at 40.3, though he did complete seven of 12 passes on 16 pressured dropbacks for 66 yards and the game-winning touchdown. However, both of his turnover-worthy plays came while under duress. 

The first was late in the third quarter in the red zone. With pressure in Smith's face, a defender undercut an out route by Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a pass breakup that could have been a 97-yard pick-six had the defender held on to the ball. The Seahawks kicked a field goal on the ensuing play.

The other came on a third-and-long late in the fourth quarter while the Seahawks were attempting to put the game away and nursing a three-point lead. Smith scrambled every which way before taking a sack for a loss of 17 yards, giving the Lions excellent field position following a punt to set up the game-tying drive that sent the game to overtime.

Smith ensured his errors wouldn't be a death knell in the extra period. The Seahawks got the ball first, and Smith led his offense downfield on a nine-play drive that ended with a walk-off touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett on another play where he had to dodge pressure. 

Smith completed six of his seven passes in overtime, the one incompletion being a throwaway. On that final drive, Smith put up an 85.0 passing grade.

Smith didn’t play a perfect game against the Lions by any means, but he made a lot of plays and was an integral part of Seattle’s first win of the season over a team many predicted in the preseason to be a division champion. With more performances like this, Seattle should be firmly in the mix to return to the playoffs.


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