INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After sitting out for most of the second half with an elbow injury, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith returned to the huddle with his sights set on leading a game-winning drive against the Los Angeles Rams with just under 90 seconds left to play.
Battling through soreness resulting from Aaron Donald's helmet hitting his elbow on a quarterback hit in the third quarter, Smith calmly completed a 13-yard pass to Tyler Lockett and followed up with a 21-yard connection to DK Metcalf on a post route, quickly moving Seattle into enemy territory with less than 40 seconds remaining. Out of timeouts, he awaited for a play call directive from offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, but nothing came through.
"I guess there was an outage or something, but no play came in my helmet," Smith told reporters after the game. "So I called the quickest play I could in that situation."
Forced to make a decision on his own on the fly while nursing a banged up wing, Smith decided to call a run, believing the Seahawks could hit on the ground for big yardage to move closer for kicker Jason Myers and then clock the ball. But the handoff to rookie Zach Charbonnet promptly got stopped after gaining just two yards and after the quarterback spiked the ball on the next snap, the kick remained a long one at 55 yards away.
Unfortunately for Seattle, after Myers split the uprights with ease on a kick from the same distance in the second quarter, the same result wasn't meant to be in the waning seconds of regulation. Dealing with a bit of wind coming through that side of the stadium, the kick sailed wide right and may have been short even if accurate, allowing Los Angeles to steal a 17-16 win in a game it didn't lead until the final two minutes.
Reflecting on the missed opportunity moments after the game, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll acknowledged things could have been handled better down the stretch and they didn't do it "as clean as we'd like," but the team still put Myers in a position to win the game. This time, he just couldn't deliver.
"We didn't handle that as well as we'd like to, but we got in field goal range," Carroll remarked. "Got there and we had a shot. Jason's kicked the ball that far before. We would have loved to be a little closer obviously."
Looking back at the situation, as Carroll, Smith, and Lockett each acknowledged after the game, it's easy to wonder what could have been done differently in hindsight and whether different choices would have yielded a better outcome.
Without having a timeout at his disposal and not having any input from Waldron at the time due to the helmet blackout, would Smith have been better served to immediately spike the football to conserve time and allow one or two more plays? Or to rush to the line with a pass play dialed up while potentially risking taking a sack?
From the quarterback's perspective, Smith felt he made the right call based on the situation and what he saw from the defense, trusting the offensive line to create room for Charbonnet. In the end, it just didn't play out as hoped, and reading through Carroll's comments, he may have preferred a different approach.
"Thought we had a chance and it didn't really work out as we thought it would," Smith said.
As for the inconvenient timing of the helmet mic going out, Smith took the high road, not willing to delve into any conspiracy theories and stating that his focus remained solely on guiding his team to victory amid difficult circumstances.
Now sitting in second place in the NFC West with a 6-4 record after being swept by the Rams, Smith and the Seahawks won't have much time to dwell on what could have happened on Sunday. With a Thanksgiving matchup looming just four days away, everyone will have to turn their attention to the next game and most importantly, Smith's health will take center stage in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Considering the nature of a short week in the NFL, Carroll was non-committal on whether or not Smith would be available to play against the 49ers in a game that now carries even greater weight after losing in Los Angeles. A win would vault the team right back into first place in the division, but a loss would put them two full games behind in the standings with six games remaining on the schedule.
Trying to beat one of the NFC's best teams, even at home, would be far trickier for Seattle if Drew Lock has to start under center. Smith hopes to be available, but time will tell how he feels in coming days and short weeks always are trickier for players to bounce back from injuries, especially when it comes to a throwing arm injury for a quarterback.
Regardless of what happens, Carroll knows the Seahawks have to turn the page after a disappointing finish that wasn't without drama. Facing far greater urgency after letting a game they should have won slip away, they must put everything they've got into ensuring both Smith and Lock are properly prepared in a short window to position them for success.