Geno Smith, Seahawks answer their doubters with rousing OT win in Detroit


DETROIT — Last week, Geno Smith had a blunt and thoroughly depressing assessment of the Seahawks' dispiriting season-opening loss to the Rams:

"They wanted it more, they played harder, and they executed better."

For Smith and his teammates, the ensuing week was dedicated to showing that the real Seahawks had yet to be seen. But to transform that sentiment from wishful thinking and locker room bravado into reality was going to take some doing. The Seahawks on Sunday walked into as frenetic an environment as you can imagine in the NFL, a fan base worked into a froth of excitement over a rising team that had pulled off a huge win to start the year. The atmosphere at Ford Field was, as Pete Carroll said afterward, "as hard as it gets."

It was a recipe for not just disaster, but potential humiliation. Another trouncing in which the Seahawks barely put up any resistance might have stamped this Seattle season as dead on arrival.

And then the Seahawks went out and showed that they do indeed have life left in them with a 37-31 overtime victory that was as rousing as last week's had been deflating. To use Smith's trifecta of doom as the barometer, they clearly wanted it desperately, played with ultimate effort, and executed exquisitely — at least when it mattered most.

It was a team-wide vindication of the Seahawks' preseason belief that they would be a team to be reckoned with. And for Smith, his bounce back from an uneven performance in the opener was a powerful rebuttal for those who were already starting to whisper that his second-half slippage last year was more indicative of his true ability than the sensational half-season that preceded it.

Playing in the cacophony of Ford Field, and behind an offensive line that was missing both starting tackles, Smith turned in an accomplished and poised effort that showed he's still fully capable of rising to the moment. Smith completed 32 of 41 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns — both of them to Tyler Lockett. The latter of those, a walkoff 6-yarder that set off jubilation on the Seahawks' sideline, came in overtime to cap a masterful 75-yard march in which he completed 6 of 7 passes for 69 yards.

"We were very confident that we can go out there and get it done," Smith said of overtime. "We had been moving the ball all game. ... We had found a rhythm somewhere in the second quarter and kind of got rolling, and just felt like we knew the opportunity was there for us to go win it. That's all you want as an offense."

The Seahawks were so confident in Smith that many felt that the turning point in the game was Drew Lock winning the coin flip at the outset of overtime.

"When I saw that it was tails, and we got the ball, I was like, 'game over,'" said cornerback Tre Brown, whose pick-six in the fourth quarter was a more tangible turning point in the game. "Because when those guys lock in, I feel like they're the best in the NFL. [Smith] just made play after play after play. ... Man, I didn't even put my helmet on when I saw we got we got the ball because I knew they were going to go out there and just drive the ball."

Carroll said Smith had a "spectacular day" marred only by what the coach called "a crazy sack." That regrettable play occurred late in the fourth quarter with Seattle trying to ice the game when a wildly scrambling Smith retreated toward the end zone — the wrong one — in an effort to avoid the heavy Detroit rush. But Smith was tackled at Seattle's 3-yard-line, a 17-yard loss that set up the Lions' drive for a game-tying field goal as time expired.

Smith said he was trying to eat up clock without throwing a clock-stopping incompletion but admitted he should have just thrown it away.

Even that potentially devastating turn of events, however, showed the Seahawks' growth from one week to another. The Rams had crushed their will in the second half a week ago, outscoring Seattle 23-0 after intermission. But after giving the Lions the ball at the 50 with a golden chance to drive for a game-winning touchdown, the Seahawks defense held the Lions to that field goal, which Carroll called "a phenomenal stop."

Carroll, in fact, could hardly control his effusive praise for the Seahawks after the game, starting with fill-in tackles Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan, and continuing through virtually every nook and cranny of the roster.

"I'm overflowing with praise for our guys, because of the way we came through," Carroll said. "Unfortunately, we had to drag the loss with us, but this was such an extraordinary opportunity with a team that we hold in such high regard. We felt this could jump start us and get this going. I'm really excited about that. That wasn't us in the second half [last week]. It was a game we had to live with, so maybe it was one of the great lessons for us."

As the face of the Seattle offense, Smith had to live perhaps most keenly with their lackluster effort. But the Seahawks leadership tried to put forward the message all week that one loss did not define their season. It was a message that Bobby Wagner delivered in a fiery fashion on Wednesday — a rousing full-squad speech at the outset of practice that Carroll credited with galvanizing the Seahawks in the direction of Sunday's upset.

"It just hit them right between the eyes, and we just flipped instantly," Carroll said.

Added Smith of Wagner, "He had a great impact. All the captains talked throughout the week about knowing who we are, knowing that we're a great team. We're a good offense. All we have to do is play our game, not make it bigger than what it is.

"And also, have fun. That was the key message, to have fun, have that swagger. And obviously, it's hard to do after a loss. But for us to come and perform the way that we did today, I think it just shows you who we are as a team."

And it just might be that the real Seahawks aren't the ones that stunk up their season opener after all.