Over the past three weeks, Geno Smith and the Seahawks have lamented about their inability to finish games, losing heartbreakers in consecutive weeks to the Rams, Steelers, and Saints.
But with the calendar flipping to Halloween, they didn't have to worry about another frightening finish on Sunday. Led by Smith's near-perfect performance and a stingy defense, Seattle built a three-score advantage in the first half and never looked back, cruising to a 31-7 blowout win over Jacksonville to improve to 3-5 heading into its bye week.
Here are five quick takeaways from Seattle's bounce-back win at Lumen Field:
1. Geno Smith didn't overcomplicate things, conducted smart business throwing exclusively to his two best playmakers.
While the Xs and Os in football can be pretty complex, it's still a simple game in the sense quality teams find ways to get the football to their best players as much as possible. After not accomplishing that goal in a loss to the Saints on Monday, Smith and the Seahawks quickly made sure not to replicate that mistake by getting DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett the ball frequently from the outset. In the first half alone, Smith completed 13 passes to the dynamic duo for 130 yards, including Metcalf scoring in spectacular fashion by reaching back to high-point a back-shoulder throw for a 16-yard score in the second quarter. Lockett also had a 27-yard reception that initially was ruled a touchdown before being called down at the one-yard line on Seattle's first offensive possession.
For the game, Smith completed 20 out of 24 passes for 195 yards and all but two of those completions went to Metcalf and Lockett. Lockett produced his 13th career 100-yard receiving game, wrapping up the afternoon with 12 receptions for 142 yards and averaging 11.8 yards per reception. As for Metcalf, while he was held to only 43 yards on six receptions, two of those catches went for touchdowns while going against his former teammate Shaquill Griffin, giving him eight on the season thus far. Moving forward, it's not rocket science: Seattle has to get the ball to its best players to open up
2. Call it the Pocic effect if you may, but the offensive line looked far sharper in pass protection keeping Smith upright.
Midway through this week, coach Pete Carroll indicated Pocic would see some action at the pivot position, but it remained to be seen how much or whether he would start. Sure enough, he replaced Kyle Fuller in the lineup and played every snap and while opponent must be considered as part of the equation, the line as a whole seemed to respond favorably to the change. The communication issues that had dogged the group in recent weeks were limited, allowing Smith to operate with a clean pocket most of the afternoon to scan through his progressions, particularly in the first half.
While Smith was hit six times during the game and took three sacks, several of those plays came after he attempted to extend the play with his legs outside of the pocket. For the most part, the line kept the Jaguars pass rush in check. Though they didn't have gaudy rushing numbers averaging 2.8 yards per carry on the day, the group opened up some nice run lanes for Alex Collins on the first couple of drives to provide balance with Smith's efficient passing.
3. For a second straight week, the Seahawks front line did their job shutting down the run and forced a rookie quarterback to beat them.
Putting an asterisk next to this one, the Jaguars did lose star running back James Robinson to an ankle injury in the first half and badly missed his versatility as a runner and receiver. With that said, after holding Alvin Kamara to 2.6 yards per carry on Monday, the Seahawks locked up Robinson, Carlos Hyde, and Dare Ogunbowale to just 82 yards on the afternoon. Trevor Lawrence also wasn't much of a factor running the ball, carrying three times for 11 yards. This put the ball in the rookie quarterback's court to move the ball and he wasn't able to get it done throwing the ball 54 times and producing only 238 yards passing.
Leading the way, Bobby Wagner finished with a whopping 14 tackles, while Jamal Adams also cleaned up with 10 tackles. The Seahawks received strong efforts from the entire defensive line, including Robert Nkemdiche, who despite making only one tackle provided valuable snaps holding serve in the trenches. After struggling to stop the run in the first five games, Carroll must be pleased by the progress the group has made over the past three games against teams with talented running backs.
4. After undergoing "couples counseling," the marriage between the pass rush and coverage keeps steadily improving.
Throughout the season, Carroll and his players have referenced the struggles for Seattle trying to get its pass rush and coverage on the back end in sync. Since Week 7 in Pittsburgh, the group has shown tremendous improvements in the quest for marrying the two critical aspects on defense and that growth continued in Sunday's win. Though the Seahawks only had seven quarterback hits and a sack by safety Ryan Neal, they were consistently in Lawrence's grill, pressuring him out of the pocket all afternoon and blasting him any time he tried to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. His only relief came on screens, which the Jaguars were able to run successfully a few times. Darrell Taylor and Neal both smashed him on failed fourth down plays as well, leading to turnovers on downs.
In the secondary, with rookie Tre Brown starting for the first time, Seattle didn't allow a single Jacksonville receiver to eclipse 40 yards, as tight end Dan Arnold was the only player with more than 50. Marvin Jones was limited to 35 yards and Laviska Shenault was held to only 13 yards on two catches while also dropping a pair of third down throws from Lawrence. Quandre Diggs also baited the rookie quarterback in the second quarter due to his knowledge of Jacksonville's offense, basically running the route for Lawrence while reeling in his third interception of the year, becoming the first player to accomplish that feat in each of the past five seasons.
5. Celebrating the holiday in practice, Seattle partook in some trickery on offense and special teams.
It wouldn't truly be All-Hallows Eve without some deception and the Seahawks were able to check off that box twice in the second half en route to a 24-point win. At the 9:08 mark in the third quarter, Smith handed off to running back DeeJay Dallas, who played quarterback in high school. Dallas perfectly executed a double pass, tossing the ball back across the field to Smith, who then delivered a 28-yard strike to Lockett, who weaved his way down to the Jaguars five-yard line. Two plays later, he connected with Metcalf on a five-yard out for a touchdown to increase the lead to 24-0.
Then late in the fourth quarter, after the Jaguars finally got on the board with a touchdown from Lawrence to Jamal Agnew inside the two minute warning, reserve running back Travis Homer alertly scooped up an onside kick and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Interestingly, after the game, Carroll said such a situation actually came up in Saturday's walkthrough and the special teams ace made magic happen on a rare onside return.