The Seattle Seahawks were seeing their playoff hopes slip away.
After starting the year 6-3, the Seahawks entered a brutal stretch of the schedule that saw them take on their division rivals the San Francisco 49ers twice, along with the Dallas Cowboys, and the Philadelphia Eagles. That stretch also started with the Los Angeles Rams, a team that beat the Seahawks to start the season.
The results? Four-straight losses to drop Seattle to 6-7 — and out of playoff position — entering Monday night’s game against the Eagles. A loss to Philadelphia would have sent the Seahawks even deeper down the standings, into a tie with the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons at 6-8.
Making the road even harder was a bizarre situation before the game, as the team decided who would start under center. With starting quarterback Geno Smith dealing with a groin injury, it was unclear if he could go Monday night. Seattle general manager John Schneider was on the radio less than an hour before kickoff, and even he had no idea:
Seahawks GM John Schneider declines on radio show to say who will start at QB: “We’ve got 54 minutes here to figure out what’s going on.”
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) December 19, 2023
Eventually it would be Drew Lock who got the start, the former second-round pick who was benched by the Denver Broncos, and sent to Seattle as part of the Russell Wilson trade. Lock was given a chance to earn the starting job with the Seahawks last summer, but lost out in a training camp battle to Smith.
But with less than two minutes to go Monday night, and the Seahawks 92 yards away from a go-ahead touchdown, the team’s playoff hopes were in his hands.
That’s when Lock, and the rest of the Seattle offense, delivered.
The first big play on the drive came on a 2nd and 10, when Lock connected with star wide receiver DK Metcalf on this in-breaking route to move the chains:
A few plays later, Lock and the Seahawks faced their first third-down situation of the drive. Lock and company were staring down a 3rd and 10, with the football on the left hashmark. Only 56 seconds were left in the game, and Seattle was 63 yards away from the end zone. It was time for some big plays.
Lock and Metcalf delivered:
The Seahawks catch Philadelphia in man coverage, and Lock targets Metcalf on a go route along the right sideline. He puts this throw in an absolutely perfect spot, and Metcalf hangs on between two defenders, taking a big shot but completing the play for a 34-yard gain.
That was the first big play. But the Seahawks needed one more if they were going to complete the game-winning drive.
Enter rookie WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba:
Another go ball. Another perfect throw from Lock, another incredible play from a wide receiver.
And the Seahawks had their first lead of the night.
The matter would not be settled until a few plays later, when Julian Love — a backup as well starting in place of an injured Jamal Adams — intercepted Jalen Hurts for the second time in the fourth quarter. That pick preserved the win, and put the Seahawks right back into the playoff mix.
After the game, Lock talked about his star moment, and what it meant to him:
“It takes a special group to rally around a guy that’s come into his second game of the year,” said Lock. “Used to the same thing all year long, same cadence, same spin of the ball. A team like that, not just the offense .. the defense .. to rally around me tonight, that was amazing.
“It’s been a long time, it’s been a long time.”
Lisa Salters then asked Lock about the game-winning throw. “I’ll remember that play call for the rest of my life,” he began.
“We’re breaking the huddle, I knew [Smith-Njigba] had the one-on-one. Good reminder from Shane [Waldron] in the headset. I said ‘hey Jax, if you’re one-on-one I’m throwing you this pill.’ Sure enough … gave us the one-on-one look. Corner was soft, Jax hit him with some speed. Back pylon, back box throw, and he came down with it.”
Salters then asked him for a description of the moment.
“It’s so hard. It’s so hard to describe the feeling of, you know, not playing for so long, or at least what feels like a really long time to me. And then you sit there, you watch games, you wonder ‘can I do this still?’ I haven’t been out there on the field. That’s the human nature of it.
“You get back out there last week, and I’m like ‘you know what? I’m the man still, I can go do this.’ And then you got another test this week where I didn’t know if I was going to play or not. Sure enough I ended up playing and playing the Eagles tonight. And the boys around me rallied tonight. And it just feels so good … I’m so proud of everyone tonight.”
Life as a backup quarterback can be difficult. You have to be ready to play at a moment’s notice, sometimes without the practice time and preparation afforded the starter. Stepping into the huddle to play the sport’s toughest position without the benefits given to the player ahead of you can be tough. Tougher still when the team is used to the cadence and play of the starter, as Lock noted.
It is even tougher on someone in Lock’s position: Given up on by one team, having lost a quarterback battle for another team, and being left to ponder just how good you really are. Self-doubt begins to creep in. Quarterback is a position almost dependent on confidence. It is hard to play the position scared, or when you are left wondering if you still can.
And yet at a moment’s notice, you might be called upon to save a team. To save a season.
That’s what Lock faced Monday night.
And he delivered.