Hawks looking like playoff contender

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SEATTLE — Ten games into coach Pete Carroll’s third season, the Seahawks are beginning to play like a viable postseason contender.

Whether they fulfill that promise will depend upon the finish, though, which is why Seattle’s fourth quarter against the Jets was so significant Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

“We had the ball for over 12 minutes in the fourth quarter,” Carroll said. “We ran the football like crazy, and owned it, and scored a couple of touchdowns.”

Seattle’s 21-point victory was its largest of the season in terms of the final margin, and gave the Seahawks a 6-4 record and momentum into their week off, the latest bye they’ve had since 2000. The players return to work Nov. 19, and they’ll come back hoping not to salvage the season, but to solidify it.

“We’re not going to ask more of our guys than what they’ve been doing,” Carroll said. “We want them to come back to continue to play consistent.”

For Seattle’s defense, that means playing the way it did Sunday when it allowed the Jets to drive inside the Seattle 40-yard line only once.

For the offense, it means sustaining the improvement it showed the past few weeks. After averaging 16.6 points the first seven games, Seattle has put up 27.3 the past three.

And Seattle must start winning on the road. The Seahawks were 1-4 away from CenturyLink Field, those four losses by a combined total of 21 points.

“(We’re) disappointed in our play on the road that we didn’t find a way to get a couple more of those wins,” Carroll said. “We’ve been in every one of them.”

That’s significant because this was a team that didn’t just get beaten in Carroll’s first year and a half as Seahawks coach, it got blown out.

Seattle was 2-6 at the midway point of last season, making the Seahawks 9-15 in the regular season under Carroll. Thirteen of those losses were by 10 or more points, and five by more than 20.

So while the Seahawks made the playoffs in Carroll’s first season, it was a stretch to consider them a true contender. They lost three of their last four regular-season games that year, each of those losses coming by more than 15 points.

Seattle has come a long way since then. In the past 18 games, Seattle is 11-7 and none of those losses were by more than seven points. That’s a portrait of a team that is getting more competitive, more competent, more complete.

“We’re getting harder to beat,” Carroll said. “We’re getting to the point where you have to do some good stuff to get the ball away from us, one. We’re not giving you much.”

The Seahawks are one of eight teams in the NFC with a winning record. They have head-to-head victories over both Minnesota and Green Bay, which could be significant in terms of postseason positioning and there’s still an outside chance Seattle could catch San Francisco in the NFC West.

The first 10 games haven’t guaranteed Seattle anything except a chance to have the franchise’s first winning season since 2007.

“We’re trying to keep staying on a steady incline,” Carroll said, “and see if we can’t push our way through to the end of the season.

“We’ll see how far it takes us.”

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