RENTON, Wash. -- After a brilliant first half against the Denver Broncos, Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks' offense were held scoreless over the final 30 minutes of their season-opening win. And the only points the Seahawks scored in their blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday came via a special teams touchdown, meaning their offense has now been shut out for six straight quarters.
Coach Pete Carroll doesn't view Smith as the problem. In fact, he sees a greater reliance on Smith as part of the solution, starting Sunday when the Seahawks host the Atlanta Falcons (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX).
That's right: Carroll wants to Let Geno ... umm ... throw the ball more.
"After two weeks of watching Geno play, we don't need to hold him back at all," Carroll told Seattle Sports 710-AM on Monday on his weekly radio show. "I think Geno's got his game ready to go. We need to trust him, and we need to maybe give him a few more opportunities and stuff. We've been pretty solidly conservative counting on running the football ... The point is that we need to keep expanding it. We have too many explosive avenues to go to and we've got to make sure that these guys show up."
Through two games, Smith has thrown a pair of touchdown passes to one interception and has a 62.4 Total QBR, which ranks 10th among qualified quarterbacks. His 81% completion rate (47 of 58) is tops in the NFL by a wide margin, though that's been a product of high-percentage throws in addition to Smith's accuracy. His 80% completion rate on Sunday was the highest (with a minimum of pass 30 attempts) in a game in which a quarterback's team didn't score an offensive point since statistics were first tracked for individual players in 1932, according to Elias.
Carroll wanting to lean more on Smith and the passing game is especially notable when you consider the Seahawks already rank eighth through two games in designed pass-play rate at 68.8%. That includes a 70.2% rate against San Francisco, which, for context, would have led the league in 2021 in any game.
Carroll's comment about not holding Smith back was a reference to their offensive approach against the 49ers. They went into the game reluctant to expose rookie offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas any more than they had to against Nick Bosa and what the Seahawks consider to be as good of a pass rush as they'll face all season.
But Cross and Lucas -- who in Week 1 became only the third pair of rookie tackles to start a season opener since 1970 -- more than held their own. Cross was perfect in ESPN's pass block win rate, going 18 for 18, while Lucas was solid as well, with 17 wins in 19 chances. Through two games, Lucas ranks 28th among tackles in PBWR while Cross ranks 35th.
"They're holding up," Carroll told reporters Monday. "They did a nice job in general. Geno's in command of what's going on, and he's real accurate with his decision making ... so I think it's just more freely taking advantage of what's going on rather than be concerned about our ability to hold up."
As a team, the Seahawks rank 20th in PBWR. Smith echoed Carroll's comments after he was sacked twice in their opener that he could have avoided that pressure by stepping up in the pocket. So while Seattle's pass protection hasn't been great, it’s been good enough to give Carroll and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron confidence going forward to try to push the ball downfield with deep passing plays that require offensive linemen to hold their blocks longer.
Through two games, those have been few and far between. Smith ranks 32nd among qualifying quarterbacks with an average of 5.22 air yards per pass attempt, indicative of how many of his throws have been in the short and intermediate range.
Another reason for that, according to Smith and Carroll, is the way defenses have been playing them, keeping at least two safeties in deep coverage. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Smith has faced at least two high safeties on nearly 69% of his offensive snaps, the second-highest rate among qualifying quarterbacks.
"You have to play catch underneath them and pop the ball around and make sure you're taking advantage of ... what they're giving you," Carroll told reporters. "They made a clear decision to lay off and so we just have to be comfortable going after it that way. That's not a big deal. It's pretty obvious that you can do it, so we'll see how it goes. This a whole new week. Looking at Atlanta, they mix their stuff a lot, they play off coverage. So maybe it will be more of the same."
One of the deep shots Seattle took Sunday resulted in an interception when Smith's throw to Tyler Lockett over the middle was tipped. Carroll took some blame off Smith, saying an unspecified route-running error allowed one of the 49ers' safeties to be more involved in the play than he should have been. Another one was completed thanks to a brilliant catch by DK Metcalf on a double pass, but was negated by a penalty for an illegal man downfield.
Metcalf has gotten 13 targets through two games but only has 71 receiving yards on 11 catches to show for it.
"They're doubling him, and that's going to be the case all year," Smith said. "They're going to make it hard on him. They want to win too. It's very hard to cover DK and Tyler with just one guy, so they're going to put multiple guys on him, they're going to try and do whatever they can to make the other guys on our team beat them. Obviously, we want to get the ball into our playmakers' hands and we have to figure out ways to do so, but also, other guys have got to step up and I've got to do better as well at getting other guys involved in order for us to be great."