'In a zone': Geno Smith has most complete performance with Seattle Seahawks

SEATTLE -- At any given point in a game, Geno Smith says he knows exactly how many passes he's completed. The ninth-year quarterback doesn't need to glance at the stadium stat displays. He just remembers.

"I literally count in my head and keep track of them," Smith said.

So as he was making his third start for the injured Russell Wilson on Sunday, Smith said he was aware that he completed his first 14 attempts, and that he had 20 of them by the end of the Seattle Seahawks' 31-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lumen Field.

What he might not have known until after they had snapped their three-game losing streak was that his 14 straight completions were the most by any NFL quarterback to begin a game this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and that his 83.33% completion rate on 20-of-24 passing was tied for fourth-best in franchise history.

The version of Smith that threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and operated Shane Waldron's offense with precision Sunday was much different than the one who was more down than up in his previous nine-plus quarters of fill-in action. Granted, facing Jacksonville's 30th-ranked defense helped.

"What a game he had," coach Pete Carroll said. "Starting off 14-for-14 and a throwaway was the first incomplete. He was so calm and so poised and just delivered the ball so well. This was really Geno at his best. That's what we can count on from him."

The Seahawks, still hanging by a thread at 3-5, might need to continue counting on Smith with no word on whether Wilson's surgically-repaired right middle finger will be ready to play when they return from this week's bye to play the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 14.

Wilson is eligible to return from injured reserve now that he's missed the required three games. He's had the stitches removed and, as Carroll put it Friday, "is making all of the strides that he should be making ..." since his Oct. 8 surgery to repair two injuries he suffered in the third quarter of an Oct. 7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. But he's yet to have the pin removed from his finger, which has to happen before he can resume throwing. As of Friday, no one knew when that would happen.

"I don't know any updates now," Carroll said postgame. "His finger looks way better. It's really healed tremendously. He's getting closer. We'll see what happens."

Wilson's absence had been most notable in the closing minutes of Seattle's three straight losses, when he's arguably been the NFL's best quarterback over his career. In all three games, the Seahawks had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final three minutes of regulation or overtime. Without their closer, they couldn't.

Against the one-win Jaguars, the Seahawks avoided any late drama with their most complete effort in recent memory. Smith helped them jump out to a 17-0 halftime lead while their improving defense pitched a shutout until the final two minutes.

Smith's 1-yard rushing touchdown on a fourth-down sneak in the first quarter -- after three straight handoffs were stuffed -- gave the crowd at Lumen Field an early jolt. With more empty seats than usual following the Seahawks' first three-game losing streak since 2011, it was needed.

Smith threw for 195 yards while executing a more aggressive game plan than the one designed to protect the football in wet and windy conditions last week against New Orleans. And he had much more success downfield than he did two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, when Seattle's passing game was mostly screens and check-downs.

"He made some tough throws," Carroll said. "He put big touch on the ball ... He was really just so good today. I'm so thrilled for him."

One of those tough throws was a lob over a defender to receiver Tyler Lockett on a crossing route for one of his 12 catches. Another was a back-shoulder fade in the end zone where only DK Metcalf could get it for their first of two touchdown connections.

Metcalf appreciated the trust Smith showed in him to give him a jump-ball opportunity against cornerback Shaquill Griffin. The receiver didn't know until afterwards that Smith had completed his first 14 attempts.

"He was in a zone," Metcalf said.

The win was technically Smith's first as a starter since 2016 with the New York Jets, though he went down with a torn ACL early in that game after attempting four passes. Before that, he hadn't won a start since the 2014 season finale.

"I think it's a huge accomplishment for him," Carroll said. "We been saying we need to play in support of Geno. He's coming out, trying to figure out how get back to playing quarterback again, and we need to help him in every way. I thought the game plan was really good today. You saw us in the weather last week, just really concerned about making sure we took care of the football. Our offense did not turn the ball over again. That's incredible discipline by those guys. There is nobody doing that in the league. Our guys just keep on doing it. Geno is the center of all that."

The Seahawks host the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals after playing at Green Bay. They probably need to win one at least of those conference games to keep their playoff hopes alive. They may need Smith to start at least one of them.

Safety Jamal Adams, who had offseason surgery on two broken fingers, was asked what kind of boost it will be to get Wilson back.

"Three is three," Adams said. "He's that guy ... I know what he's going through with that finger. I'm still going through it, obviously. I know exactly what he's going through. He's pushing, he’s doing everything he can to get back on the field with us. Until then, we have to hold it down."