BRANDON GUSTAFSON

‘How about Geno?’: Smith starts hot, helps Seahawks spoil Wilson’s return

Sep 12, 2022, 9:46 PM
Seahawks Geno Smith...
Geno Smith of the Seahawks celebrates against the Broncos at Lumen Field on Sept. 12. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)
(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

With all eyes on the quarterback on the opposing sideline – especially given that was the signal caller he was replacing – Seahawks starter Geno Smith did something few expected: he led his team to victory at Lumen Field on Monday Night Football.

Seahawks Instant Reaction: Seattle Sports on win over Wilson’s Broncos

Yes, new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, back in Seattle for his first game with his new franchise and first game against the one he called home for 10 years – played the better game overall. He led longer and more consistent drives, he put up 145 more passing yards and had as many touchdown passes.

But at the end of the day it was Smith – not Wilson – who left Lumen Field with a 17-16 Week 1 victory despite the Seahawks entering the matchup as heavy underdogs. And it was Smith who earned adoration from an electric crowd, with a vast majority of the more than 68,000 in attendance screaming out “Ge-No” chants throughout the game, especially in the first half, while Wilson was rained down with boos starting in pregame warmups.

“How about Geno?” head coach Pete Carroll said emphatically after the game.

For Smith and the Seahawks, the game couldn’t have started any better on offense.

Smith came out red hot, completing 17 of 18 passes in the first half for 164 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to tight ends. That’s notable as Seattle had just five receiving touchdowns by tight ends all of last season. That resulted in a Seahawks 17-13 lead at the half.

“(He was) 17 for 18 in the first half. Who does that?” Carroll said. “Guys just don’t do that.”

But the Broncos, who many analysts believe are a playoff team and even a potential division winner in the juggernaut AFC West thanks to the addition of Wilson, put things together on defense starting in the third quarter.

After his near-perfect start on Monday, Smith completed 6 of 10 passes for just 31 yards in the second half. The Seahawks fell out of rhythm offensively, and after a Broncos field goal cut Seattle’s lead to 17-16, it appeared that Smith’s unit ran out of gas.

“We’ve got to be better in the second half. That’s all I was thinking about,” Smith said before crediting Denver’s defense for better play starting in the third quarter. “But we’ve got to finish games better.”

But thanks to more than 100 yards in penalties, two goal-line fumbles and the decision to kick a 64-yard field goal at the end that was off the mark, the Broncos, despite many chances to take control of the game, left Seattle with the loss while Smith and the Seahawks got to celebrate the win.

“It’s great to get a win,” Smith said. “Our defense went out there and do what they had to do, but we could have put up more points and given ourselves even more cushion to have a better shot in that game.”

All in all, Smith completed 23 of 28 passes for 195 yards and the two scores, which was what his head coach was looking for.

“Geno played tonight like he’s been playing the whole time we’ve been practicing. That’s what he’s been looking like,” Carroll said. “He didn’t look any different than what he’s looked like in practice, and so that’s why we had the belief in him, and that’s why he was able to win the job.”

Smith entered this season as a starter for the first time since 2014. While some believe Smith has had to overcome a lot to get to this point, he looks at it differently.

“I think when people say what I’ve been through, I think that’s a stretch, man,” Smith said. “I’ve been in the NFL for 10 years … I don’t listen to stuff like that. I just work.”

The storyline on Monday was Smith taking on his former teammate in Wilson, a perennial Pro Bowler who is now set to make more than $200 million with his new team. Smith and Wilson talked before the game, with Smith saying he has a lot of “respect and love” for the longtime Seattle quarterback.

“Being here with him for three years, I learned a lot. Got to know him really well,” Smith said. “I got to understand why he is the man that he is, the way that he is and what makes him special. Russell will always be my brother. I love him to death and I just wish him the best.”

While Smith walks out of Week 1 with the win over his longtime teammate, Smith stressed it’s just one win.

“We can celebrate it tonight,” he said. “We’ve got a short week, we’ve got to get ready for a division opponent in San Fran. We’re happy. We feel like we can win a lot of games if we play like that (with) complete team football. But for me, it’s just one win. It’s just one game, and we’ve got to be ready for 16 more.”

And it indeed is just one in a lengthy 17-game campaign,. But for at least one week, it’s Smith and the Seahawks who get the storybook finish.

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