With the outcome of the game somewhat still in doubt versus the 49ers, Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith made a (quite possibly literally) costly mistake. The game was 23-17 49ers in the third quarter with Seattle driving and already in field goal range. Smith dropped back to pass, was hit, and fumbled, and that for all intent and purposes was the ball game.
After the play, the 49ers scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. The 31-17 score seemed more like 45-17 and with the way the Seahawks’ defense was playing (or maybe I should say how well the 49ers’ offense was executing), there was no way Seattle was going to come back and make the game close. But some things are lost in the details here.
Seattle did lead 17-16 at the half and Geno Smith had played nearly flawlessly. San Francisco scored on their opening drive to pull ahead. Seattle then drove down to the 49ers’ 26 and faced a 3rd and 14. A quarterback in that situation, especially against the 49ers’ fearsome pass rush, knows they need to do two things. One is to get rid of the ball quickly. The other is not to put the ball in a position where there could be a turnover.
Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith needs to cut down on his turnovers
The problem for Geno Smith in 2022 was that overall he was surprisingly good but in the second half of the season he had nearly as many turnovers as he had touchdown passes. These turnovers weren’t all interceptions either. From Week 12 on, Smith had 8 interceptions in 8 games as well as 3 fumbles lost (he actually fumbled 5 times). That is 11 turnovers in 8 games and that isn’t winning football.
Smith sometimes simply holds a football too low when under pressure. Peyton Manning kept the ball high almost all the time for two reasons: 1) It allowed him to release the ball quicker, and 2) it cut down on the number of potential fumbles he would have. Smith has been in the league long enough to know, even if he has mostly been a backup, that he should know how to hold the ball under pressure.
The fumble against the 49ers killed any momentum the Seahawks were starting to regain. Again, I am not saying if the fumble doesn’t happen that the 49ers don’t win – they were better than Seattle – but at the same time, with no fumble, Jason Myers likely kicks a field goal to make it 23-20 and there is still a chance Seattle keeps it close for a while.
Geno Metcalf said after the game he wants to stay with the Seahawks. I hope he does; Geno Smith has been very good this year. But the question should also be asked about whether Smith is capable of reducing his turnovers and winning playoff games. NFL teams are generally turnover-adverse and don’t overpay players who do have a bunch of turnovers. Smith will likely be back in Seattle, but possibly with a few million dollars less on his contract than what he might have been offered a few weeks ago.