Geno Smith ready for playoffs, next chapter of comeback year

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Geno Smith smiled and joked about some of his teammates on Wednesday, showing none of the signs that might be apparent for someone about to add another first to the resume in the 10th season of his career.

Smith certainly doesn't seem overly stressed with his first playoff start on the horizon.

“I’ve always had that thought process that if I did get an opportunity that this is where we should be,” Smith said. “And like I said, it’s not about me. It’s about the team and everyone else around me, and how we are collectively coming together and how we collectively have gotten to the playoffs.”

The next and maybe final chapter to what has been one of the best comeback stories in the league this season will take place this weekend when Smith and the Seahawks face San Francisco in the NFC wild card game.

Seattle is a massive underdog to the 49ers and has been written off by most analysts as not being ready for the playoff stage. But that falls in line with Seattle’s entire season — derided in the summer as not having enough talent, only to see Smith and his teammates defy those expectations and achieve just enough to sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.

Making the postseason provides a definition of success to the season for both Smith and the Seahawks. But he doesn’t want getting there to be the end of the story.

“I don’t think we should be getting hyped up right now or acting like this is our end goal because we have another goal in mind,” Smith said. “Obviously it starts just one game at a time, one play, one practice at a time, staying focused on staying in the moment. But we know that we can’t just say, ‘Oh, we’re happy to be in the playoffs.’ There’s more to it. We’ve got to stay focused on that.”

Smith finished the season leading the NFL in completion percentage (69.8%) and fifth in passer rating (100.9). He set a number of franchise QB records and was the only quarterback in the league to play every snap this season.

But if Seattle is going to continue its playoff push past the matchup with the 49ers, it needs a better version of Smith than what it got in the latter part of the season. Smith was great through the first 12 games with a passer rating of nearly 109, a completion percentage of 72.7% and 22 touchdowns against six interceptions. He was a big reason why Seattle was 7-5 through those 12 games.

Smith was also partly to blame for the Seahawks finishing 2-3, a stretch that included Seattle’s 21-13 loss to San Francisco on Dec. 15. Smith’s completion percentage tumbled to 63.3% as some of the easy throws that made Seattle’s offense work didn’t connect. He threw five interceptions, including two in the loss to Carolina and two in Week 18 against the Rams. Smith was also sacked 15 times during that stretch.

“When we’re in 3rd and manageable, we’ve done great, and we’ve been able to execute, move the chains,” Smith said. “For us, it’s staying efficient on first and second down, me in particular getting the ball out, being efficient getting the ball to the guys in the right timing and to the right reads, and then everything else kind of goes from there.”

San Francisco has been especially troublesome for Smith and the Seahawks. Smith has converted only two third downs via pass in 20 attempts against the 49ers over eight quarters this season. Seattle’s only offensive touchdown in the two games came late in the fourth quarter of the 21-13 loss last month, a game where Seahawks didn’t run a play inside the 49ers’ 20-yard line until the final drive.

“They don’t fool you,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “They just line up and they are running their scheme. They have some things that they do. They pressure rarely but effectively. It’s just the fact that they are so consistent at what they do. You have to beat them, and you have to block them.”

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Tim Booth, The Associated Press