GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Geno Smith looked at his teammates on the Seattle Seahawks' sideline and tapped his chest, signaling to them that the Arizona Cardinals' go-ahead touchdown was on him. Not that there was any question. Smith's screen pass intended for Kenneth Walker III had just ended in disaster when it was tipped and picked by linebacker Zaven Collins, who returned it 30 yards to the end zone to put Arizona up 14-10 midway through the third quarter.
The worst mistake of Smith's brilliant season could have doomed Seattle on Sunday at State Farm Stadium. Instead, it set up a response that showed the resilience that is coming to define the now 6-3 Seahawks and their revelation of a quarterback. Smith shrugged off the pick-six to lead three consecutive touchdown drives that turned a nailbiter into a 31-21 victory.
"It didn't even faze him, which is exactly what has to happen," coach Pete Carroll said of Smith's interception, only his fourth this season. "I just checked in with him and he was fine. ... He knows that those things are going to happen sometimes, but he still has to face it. This was one that he did, and he did a great job of handling it."
Smith went 6-of-7 for 54 yards and converted three third downs on the ensuing drive, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett. He went a combined 4-of-5 for 69 yards on the next two drives, which covered 81 and 80 yards, respectively, both capped by Walker touchdown runs. Smith, still plenty spry at 32 years old, picked up 30 yards with his legs on the second of the three drives with a scramble run and a zone-read keeper.
"After all I've gone through, things like that are not going to faze me," Smith said. "So obviously like I said, I'm not making an excuse for it. I know I have to be better and not have that happen. But I think that kind of woke us up, and you can see what we can do after those types of plays where you go out there and you get three straight touchdown drives -- long drives, hard drives. That says more to me than the interception did."
What Smith has gone through -- the sucker punch that broke his jaw and cost him his starting job with the New York Jets, then having to spend most of the next seven seasons as a backup for four different teams -- makes his late-blooming breakout that much better of a story. He ranks fourth in the NFL in Total QBR. His two touchdown passes Sunday give him 15 on the year. That's already a career-high with eight games still to play and good for the league's fourth-best TD/INT ratio. He completed 26 of 34 passes against Arizona to maintain his lead in completion rate at a whopping 73.1%.
"I think what he models to our team and what our whole team has taken is through the ups and downs, through the lumps, to just keep playing," said tight end Noah Fant, who had his best game of the season with five catches for a team-high 96 yards. "That's exactly what he did. Bad things happen. A guy jumps up and gets in the flight of the ball, stuff like that happens during the game. He was the first one to come to the sideline and be like, 'We're good. We're going to be fine and we're going to be in this game and we're going to win this game.' We all take to that really well and it's really good to have a leader like that."
The Seahawks, like Smith, are leaving little doubt they're for real as they continue to blow past their low outside expectations. Their six wins already match the over/under that Caesars Sportsbook set for them before the season. They'll take a 1½-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West with them to Munich, Germany, for next Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before their Week 11 bye. They'll also take a resurgent defense that swarmed Kyler Murray on Sunday and held Arizona's offense to 14 points.
Seattle's four straight wins have all come by at least 10 points. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that's their longest streak of double-digit victories since 2014, when they reached their second consecutive Super Bowl. But that belies how hard fought their two wins over Arizona were in that stretch, especially this one.
"We're just a resilient group," said safety Ryan Neal, who forced a Murray fumble that Seattle recovered to keep the Cardinals from scoring at the end of the first half. "You look at it across the board. We've got Geno, who came out of New York and then kind of got shut out, had to sit in the back seat. You've got [safety Quandre Diggs], who was drafted in the low end of the sixth round. You've got me, who was undrafted. It's just tons of dudes across the team to where it was just all just all about scratching and clawing. Look at Lockett, one of the smallest people in the league but he's just making plays. We all have an underdog story.
"So when you go out and see Geno do something like that, it's just shows the theme of this team, the heartbeat of this team. And like I've said before, it's us against the world ... To see him go back out there and do that, it just lets us know, we're fighting. We're going to fight 'til the end. That's just the way this team rolls."