It’s not uncommon for teams to get better as the season goes on. But it is fairly unusual for so many areas to go from caterpillar to butterfly in a 17-week span.

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The quote reflected what the forever faithful always believed.

Just after Seattle had beaten the Steelers in Week 12 — and thus finally besting a team with a winning record this season — receiver Doug Baldwin explained that the result was mostly a matter of “us getting back to playing Seahawks football.”

Given the talent on the roster and the expectations entering the year, most fans agreed. But in retrospect, I have a small quibble with Baldwin’s word choice.

Getting back to Seahawks football? No. More like clawing, or scraping, or better yet — gutting.

After beginning the season 2-4, the Hawks (10-6) are in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. But it wasn’t just a matter of time before they returned to a top-flight level.

These guys had to work. Furiously. On just about every aspect of their game.

“We kind of started a little slower. I don’t think there’s an explanation for it that’s adequate,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Every season, regardless of what the games are, wins and losses and stuff, you still have to find it. You still have to find the team feeling and what it takes to play together.”

It’s not uncommon for teams to get better as the season goes on, especially when they are integrating new personnel into their systems. But it is fairly unusual for so many areas to go from caterpillar to butterfly in a 17-week span.

Do you remember how flawed the Seahawks appeared at times this year? Do you recall how tenuous their offensive line was, how vulnerable their secondary looked, or how inconsistent their quarterback played? Were you not scratching your head at the absent running game at the beginning of the season or the stagnant passing attack midway through?

Sure, before the loss to St. Louis two Sundays ago, the Seahawks had led in the fourth quarter of every game they played this year. But there were still glaring shortcomings galore.

Until suddenly there weren’t.

One of my favorite responses this season came after Seattle had beaten Minnesota 38-7, and I asked tight end Luke Willson if he and his teammates had been waiting for a game such as that.

“I don’t know if waiting is the right word,” Willson said. “We’ve been working for it.”

Boy, have they.

This was a team whose O-line gave up a league-high 31 sacks through the first seven games, and then just seven through the next six. That takes a lot of film and a lot of effort.

This was a team that lost Marshawn Lynch, then lost Thomas Rawls, yet finished third in the NFL in rushing. That takes coaching and a commitment to a philosophy.

Russell Wilson was as mediocre as could be before the bye week and couldn’t produce out of the pocket. He finished the year with the best passer rating in the NFL.

The Legion of Boom blew two multi-score, fourth-quarter leads and was torched by a quintet of elite quarterbacks. On Sunday it shut down Carson Palmer in easily his worst game of the season.

And then there’s offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was maligned for nearly three months for overseeing a stagnant offense that couldn’t involve Jimmy Graham. Now, he’s celebrated as the maestro of this astonishing scoring symphony.

Basically, the Seahawks are like the high school student who got all Cs on his progress report, then turned it into a 4.0 by the end of the semester. But it’s not because they simply snapped out of it — it’s because they recognized the problems and snapped to it.

Now they have a chance to once again be on top of the mountain. Pretty remarkable when you consider how far they’ve climbed.