The Seahawks have scored 29 or more points in four consecutive games — something they hadn’t done since the last four games of the 1986 season.
RENTON — Football historians likely will view the third quarter of the Seahawks’ 2015 season as when it all changed.
It was when the Seahawks showed they could survive without Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham.
It was when they showed again that a slow start doesn’t mean it’s a lost year.
The Seahawks’ odds of making the playoffs at the midway point of the season, when they were 4-4, stood at 37 percent, according to fivethirtyeight.com.
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Now, after wins in their past three games that improved their record to 7-5, the Seahawks’ chances to make the playoffs are 83 percent, according to the website.
“It feels like we’re on track to play really good football,’’ coach Pete Carroll said. “ … We haven’t done anything yet. Just in the middle of the season trying to make some progress and see where we wind up. But the feeling is where it’s supposed to be right now for us.”
Indeed, the Seahawks enter a three-game stretch against teams with a total record of 10-26.
But first, here’s a look at the Seahawks at the three-quarters pole:
MVP: Quarterback Russell Wilson. After starting the second half of the season with one of the worst games of his career (14-of-32 passing vs. Arizona) Wilson responded with a three-game stretch that is as good as he has ever been — and in the process has quieted a lot of questions about how effectively he can lead the offense without Lynch. Wilson is 66 of 86 the past three games for 879 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions with a quarterback rating of 148.2 — 158.3 is perfect.
Unsung hero: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin. It’s almost hard to consider someone who is on pace for the best season by a Seahawks receiver in eight years as unsung. Baldwin is on pace to finish the with 1,037 receiving yards. The most recent Seattle player to top 1,000 was Bobby Engram with 1,147 in 2007. Baldwin has 24 catches for 433 yards and six touchdowns in the past four games. We also should mention center Patrick Lewis, whose insertion into the starting lineup helped solidify the line.
Key stat: At the midpoint of the season, the Seahawks had scored touchdowns on just 5 of 17 possessions in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line), which at 29 percent ranked last in the NFL. In the past four games, they have scored TDs on 11 of 14 red-zone possessions, in the process moving to 51.6 percent for the season, 22nd in the NFL.
Key question: Can the Seahawks maintain their offensive revival? They have scored 29 or more points in four consecutive games — something the Seahawks hadn’t done since the last four games of the 1986 season. Some slippage is to be expected, but given the upcoming opponents, it might not happen soon.
Grade: A-minus. Wilson has taken his game to a higher level, taking the entire offense with him.
MVP: Cornerback Richard Sherman. If we were giving a defensive MVP award for the season we might still lean toward Michael Bennett, who continues to be virtually unblockable. But Sherman was a key to the Seahawks’ success in the third quarter, again assigned twice to take on a specific receiver — San Francisco’s Torrey Smith and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown — and essentially eliminated each one as a significant threat. His job on Brown and Seattle’s ability to pull that win out — thanks in part to an interception by Sherman in the fourth quarter — might end up being as critical of an individual effort as the Seahawks will get this season.
Unsung hero: Cornerback DeShawn Shead: Shead has started games at safety, nickel cornerback and now outside cornerback this season, emerging as the starter at the right-cornerback spot after the benching of veteran Cary Williams, who was released this week.
Key stat: The Seahawks have forced nine turnovers in the past four games. They forced only eight in the first half of the season.
Big question: Was the benching of Williams a turning point for the secondary? Williams started the first 10 games before being benched in the third quarter against the 49ers. The secondary has seemed more in sync against Minnesota with Shead starting and Jeremy Lane back at nickel. It’s surely too simple to say those moves solved everything, and we might need to see the Seahawks play some better passing teams before really judging the new look. But the early results are promising.
Grade: B. The Seahawks showed some vulnerability in a loss to Arizona and the crazy win over the Steelers. But the Vikings game looked like the Seahawks of old.
MVP: Returner Tyler Lockett: After hitting a lull around mid-season following his fast start, Lockett the past few games has given the Seahawks the kind of consistent return production they have sought. Lockett is averaging 27.3 yards per kickoff return in the past four games to improve the team’s average for the season to 25.8, which would be the best for the Seahawks since Leon Washington in 2012 (27.1).
Unsung hero: Derrick Coleman. Coleman has five special-teams tackles in the past four games, so we’re citing him here to note that with one big exception — Minnesota’s 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week when the score was 35-0 — the coverage and return teams have been pretty solid of late.
Key stat: Average drive start. As evidence of the team’s generally solid coverage play, consider that the average drive start of the Seahawks’ past three opponents has been their own 18, 22 and 21, they have started at their own 27, 35 and 37. Obviously, turnovers play into that, too. But consider that in the Steelers game, 12 of Pittsburgh’s 13 drives started inside its 27, an understated reason the Seahawks pulled out that win.
Big question: Has Steven Hauschka solved his minor point-after-touchdown blip? After an almost flawless start to the season, he missed three point-after attempts in a two-game span, the first time the longer PAT had impacted the Seahawks negatively. Carroll said Hauschka simply was a bit too low on a few of his kicks. The good news for them was they overcame the misses, and Hauschka rebounded to make all five against the Vikings.
Grade: B. A season-long trend of usually more good than bad in special teams has continued.