Seahawks' 'reset' is on schedule, but November gauntlet begins

Young: Seahawks have found themselves (0:49)

Steve Young discusses the Chargers-Seahawks matchup and how Russell Wilson will be the difference in Seattle pulling out the win. (0:49)

RENTON, Wash. -- John Schneider was right.

When the Seattle Seahawks' general manager made his first offseason comments to reporters in late March, he rejected the widely held notion that his team was in rebuild mode despite a wave of big-name departures.

The Seahawks had released Richard Sherman and traded Michael Bennett before letting Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson and Sheldon Richardson sign elsewhere. And with no one expecting Kam Chancellor or Cliff Avril to come back from their career-threatening neck injuries, the core of the roster that had propelled the greatest era in the franchise's history was no longer anywhere near intact.

And yet Schneider didn't sound like someone who was conceding 2018.

"It's just always very, very hard to make those decisions to move on from people, but that's what we have to do in order to be a consistent championship-caliber football team," Schneider told reporters, using one of his go-to phrases about always wanting to be in contention. "We don't want to be having these major rebuilding years. We want to be able to have little resets, if you will."

The Seahawks are 4-3 heading into Sunday's game against the Chargers at CenturyLink Field, putting them right in the thick of a wide-open NFC playoff race. That game kicks off a brutally tough November stretch that will go a long way toward determining whether they make the postseason.

What's clear now, at least, is that the Seahawks' reset is on schedule.

They've allowed the fourth-fewest points per game despite the most significant offseason turnover coming on that side of the ball. The Seahawks lost five Pro Bowlers and have played much of this season without two more in K.J. Wright (knee) and Earl Thomas, whose broken leg in Week 4 left Seattle without any original members of the Legion of Boom. Rookie fifth-round pick Tre Flowers, a college safety, has started all but one game at right cornerback while Thomas' replacement, Tedric Thompson, is a 2017 fourth-rounder who hardly played as a rookie. Yet Seattle has allowed the third-lowest passer rating (82.8) and the second-fewest yards per attempt (6.83).

The running game, dead for two years, is alive again, ranking fifth in the NFL behind a healthy Chris Carson and an offensive line that has finally turned a corner under new coach Mike Solari. Seattle is running the ball more often than any team in the league, which helps explain why Russell Wilson is averaging only 26 pass attempts per game. He's still on pace for a career-high in touchdown passes while playing some of the most efficient football of his career. The crucial partnership between Wilson and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer -- whose hiring was another part of the upheaval of Carroll's staff -- seems to be working.

The Seahawks are sixth in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings and have the seventh-best point differential at plus-40.

Seattle needed a lot to happen this season after losing so much talent. Inexperienced players like Flowers, Thompson and David Moore had to develop quickly. Bargain pickups like D.J. Fluker, J.R. Sweezy and Barkevious Mingo had to make more of an impact than some of Seattle's recent free agents did. Returning starters like Frank Clark, Shaquill Griffin, Jarran Reed and Tyler Lockett had to take the next step.

They haven't been perfect -- Wilson was sacked six times in a loss to the Bears, the Rams controlled the fourth quarter in Seattle's Oct. 7 loss and Seattle needed a long field goal as time expired to beat the Cardinals in Josh Rosen's first career start -- but so far, plenty of things are working.

"I like our team," Pete Carroll said Sunday after the Seahawks beat Detroit for their fourth win in the past five games. "I like what's going on."

Minutes later, Wilson drew a comparison to the 2012 team that exceeded expectations.

He was part of a draft class that year that was widely panned. Wilson's selection in the third round in particular elicited some unfavorable reviews given his atypical-for-a-quarterback stature and the fact that Seattle had just signed Matt Flynn in free agency. The Seahawks were coming off 7-9 finishes in each of Carroll's first two seasons, and while young players like Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas had shown promise, no one had a sense of how good that defense was going to be or how far it was going to take them.

The Seahawks went 11-5 that year, won a road playoff game and lost by two points in the divisional round.

"It’s a similar feel because ... when we came in our 2012 year, everybody thought we weren't going to be that good, everybody was questioning the draft picks, and we proved them wrong," said Bobby Wagner, Seattle's second-round selection that year. "There was kind of a chip on our shoulder that we had."

If the Seahawks are going to make the playoffs this year, it'll probably have to be the same way that 2012 team did -- as a wild card, what with the Rams running away with the NFC West. And they'll have to navigate a four-game stretch in which they'll face teams that entered Week 9 with a combined record of 21-7-1.

"Oh my goodness," Carroll said this week when asked about what awaits his team.

According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Seahawks have the win probability in their favor in home games against the Chargers (51.9 percent) and Packers (63.2 percent) but not on the road against the Rams (24.2 percent) and Panthers (39.5 percent).

Splitting those four would set the Seahawks on an attainable path to nine or perhaps even 10 wins and a wild-card berth.

That wouldn't be bad for a team that appeared to many to be rebuilding.