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- Welcome to the thrill of the GenoCoaster. Geno Smith was absolutely dialed in on Monday night, completing 17 of 18 first-half passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. The quarterback best known for limiting mistakes let it all hang out in the first two quarters, starting with Seattle's first possession. It began with a series in which Smith completed his first four passes and capped the drive by evading the rush to toss a 38-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Will Dissly. Smith stood tall in the pocket and calmly delivered passes to a number of targets, and although he tailed off in the second half, his final line was still a sterling one: 23 for 28, 195 yards, two scores and a 119.5 passer rating. Replacing Russell Wilson is a tall task, but Smith certainly got off to a good start, and earned the adoration of Seahawks fans everywhere with his Monday night showing.
- Nathaniel Hackett's debut was a mess. Blame it on the crowd noise filling a stadium designed to be loud, or pin it on inexperience and a lack of familiarity. Whatever the cause, the result was clear: Denver was disorganized all night. The Broncos' offense struggled to get set at the line throughout the game, and one hurried snap caused chaos that produced a goal-line fumble. Oh, and about those fumbles: Denver found itself in goal-to-go situations on three possessions in the second half. The results: two fumbles lost and a field goal. Missed opportunities cost the Broncos at least six points, if not 14. That's not the worst of it, though. In the final minute, Denver had yet another opportunity to drive down the field and take the lead. Facing fourth-and-5, the Broncos came to the line of scrimmage and let the clock tick down from one minute to 20 seconds before burning a timeout and setting up for a 64-yard field goal. A practice kick was wide left by five yards, yet Hackett decided to give it another go. Predictably, McManus missed. Making matters worse, Hackett inexplicably spent his final two timeouts to stop the clock after consecutive kneel-downs, punctuating a flabbergasting mental meltdown that's seemingly only possible to happen to a rookie coach. To summarize, Hackett froze and decided his team had a better chance of victory with a kick that once stood as the NFL record for longest made, than it did by putting the ball in the hands of a future Hall of Famer.
- "Us against the world" thrives in Seattle. The Seahawks had every reason to bring the emotion to the field Monday night, and they didn't ignore the doubt. When the time came to speak with their actions, they responded in resounding fashion, stiffening with their backs against the goal line on three separate possessions to protect their slim lead. Denver had plenty of opportunities to take the lead in the second half, yet each time, it ran into a stingy defense that managed to capitalize on two turnovers on the doorstep of the end zone. And when things got tight late, Seattle again responded, forcing a fourth down on the very edge of modern football's field-goal range. When McManus' kick fell outside of the goal post, the job was officially done. Is this a sign of a prosperous season ahead? No, but what it does confirm is that a Pete Carroll-coached team will rise to the occasion and play above its potential. The Seahawks did that offensively for one half, and thanks to their defense, they'll be savoring the sweet taste of victory for at least the next 24 hours.
- The Broncos need to clean things up -- and hand the keys to Javonte Williams. Denver committed 12 penalties on Monday night and wasted multiple scoring opportunities in the second half, falling well short of the explosive offense most envisioned when the Broncos acquired Wilson in the offseason. Instead of rolling to a win over the underdog Seahawks, the Broncos struggled to keep pace, and in the end, fell short of matching the feisty Seahawks on the scoreboard. Hackett deserves criticism for his usage of Williams, too, avoiding giving the ball to the hard-running back on almost every down inside the 10, save for one. And because Hackett's offense couldn't get set in a reasonable amount of time, Williams ran into a wall of bodies as soon as he took the handoff from Wilson, leaving him vulnerable to Uchenna Nwosu, who punched the ball out of his grasp. Overall, Denver fed Williams, completing 11 passes to the running back for 65 yards, but he received just seven carries. That's not enough for the back of the future. The Broncos should take notes on how the Colts shifted to Jonathan Taylor in 2021 -- and do it sooner rather than later. You can't afford to lose these types of games in the rugged AFC West.
- Keep an eye on Bradley Chubb. The former fifth-overall pick of the 2018 draft has fought through numerous injuries in recent years, undercutting ambitions of becoming an edge-rushing force for the Broncos. Now healthy, Chubb showed out on Monday night, registering two sacks and two pressures on 17 pass rushes. All of the pressures and sacks came in the second half, when the Broncos defense pitched a shutout and gave its offense multiple chances to go win the game. The production was lopsided when reviewing all four quarters, but if Chubb can rediscover the ability that made him a standout as a rookie, Denver will have quite a tandem with Chubb and Randy Gregory.
Next Gen stat of the game: Geno Smith posted a completion rate over expected of +11.1%, the second-highest CROE of his career in the Next Gen era (dating back to 2016, minimum 20 attempts).
NFL Research: Russell Wilson became only the second quarterback to win 100-plus games with a franchise and then lose in his first meeting against that franchise in the Super Bowl era. The other quarterback to do so: Peyton Manning with the Broncos (against the Colts) in 2013.