BRANDON GUSTAFSON

How about that? Geno Smith-led Seahawks in 1st place in NFC West

Oct 23, 2022, 4:56 PM | Updated: 9:25 pm

Seahawks Geno Smith...

DeeJay Dallas of the Seattle Seahawks and Geno Smith celebrate the touchdown reception by Marquise Goodwin against the Los Angeles Chargers on October 23, 2022. (Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

(Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

The Seahawks traded a nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback this offseason, and they play in the same division as not only the reigning Super Bowl champion L.A. Rams but also the team the Rams beat to get to the big game in the San Francisco 49ers. But after Week 7, it’s Seattle that is in first place outright in the NFC West after a 37-23 win over the Chargers.

Seahawks Instant Reaction: Seattle Sports on 37-23 win over Chargers

Yep, let’s say that one more time: The Seattle Seahawks are in first place in the NFC West through Week 7 of the season.

It was easy to see why the Hawks were expected to take a step back this season. Gone were Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner and in was Geno Smith, a longtime NFL backup quarterback. Additionally, Seattle was rolling out a brand-new defensive system with first-year play-caller Clint Hurtt and, as noted, were heading into the season with division matchups against the Super Bowl-winning Rams and a win-now 49ers team. The Cardinals also made the postseason a year ago out of the NFC West.

The Seahawks also own two picks each in the first and second rounds of next year’s draft, and some thought they’d be best-suited to “tank” for the best possible picks they could have in order to secure their long-term quarterback of the future.

But through seven games, it’s the Seahawks looking down at the rest of the division, and it’s fun to see how it happened.

Smith has been stellar this season, leading the NFL in completion percentage and tossing 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. He threw for 210 yards and two scores Sunday against the Chargers, completing 74.1% of his passes.

And even with running back Rashaad Penny out for the year, rookie Kenneth Walker III has taken the ball and run with it since assuming the role of lead back, putting together back-to-back 90-plus yard outings and four total touchdowns over the last three weeks. Capped off by a 74-yard score, Walker rumbled for 168 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers.

After years of frustration regarding the use of the tight ends, the Seahawks have a three-headed monster in Will Dissly, Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson, who have been safety blankets for Smith and excelled at moving the sticks for first downs. Additionally, Smith has thrown just eight incompletions when targeting those three this season.

Seattle’s offense has been one of the more pleasant surprises in the NFL this season with Smith leading the charge and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron calling the plays, but for most of the season, the defense has held the team back. That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

Salk: Three biggest reasons Seahawks have played way into first place

Last week, the Seahawks held the Cardinals to just three points on offense after a first-drive field goal. Then that unit showed they can get it done against a dangerous offense like the Chargers’ in Week 7.

The Seahawks’ secondary has been better than expected despite leaning on two rookies in Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, but the pass rush has often lacked. Well, Seattle sacked Chargers QB Justin Herbert three times on Sunday and hit him seven times. He hadn’t been sacked more than twice in any game this year before Week 7.

And the defense is taking the ball away, with Woolen at four interceptions, Bryant forcing four fumbles and Ryan Neal picking off a pass against the Chargers on Sunday.

The aggressive and dangerous defense we’d heard about during the offseason finally seems to be coming together. That, paired with a surprisingly-dangerous offense led by Smith and Co., bodes well for Seattle’s chances of returning to the playoffs after a seven-win campaign in 2021, and badly for the rest of the NFC West, which has struggled to get going through the first seven weeks of this season.

Will it all last for the Seahawks? That’s unclear, and there’s still 10 games to go. But for now, it’s safe to say this team is exceeding expectations and rounding into shape faster than excepted. And thanks in part to a last-place finish a year ago, Seattle still has three games left against teams that finished in last place in 2021.

How about that?

Recap: Walker, Goodwin lead Seahawks over Chargers 37-23

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How about that? Geno Smith-led Seahawks in 1st place in NFC West