Week 7 already feels like a lifetime ago.
Yet in reality, only 22 days have passed since the Seattle Seahawks failed to score a single touchdown during one of the most unwatchable NFL games of the past decade. On that night, a badly hobbled Russell Wilson and his shaky protection struggled to execute even the most routine plays, leading to speculation that Seattle had lost its Midas touch.
Two games and 62 points later, the Seahawks have shed much of the baggage that bogged them down for much of the year, taking the form of a dynamo that has fans fantasizing about a return to the Super Bowl.
So what exactly accounts for Seattle's transformation from one of the least intimidating offenses in the league to one of the most dangerous?
Not surprisingly, much of the Seahawks' offensive turnaround centers on Wilson himself. Over the course of his career, the star quarterback has done a great deal of his damage outside the pocket as both a passer buying extra time for his receivers and on scrambles. No signal-caller has amassed more rushing yardage from 2012 through '15 than Wilson, who averaged over 600 yards on the ground per season during that span.
However, the combination of a badly sprained ankle and partially torn MCL confined Wilson to the pocket for the majority of 2016, limiting both the threat of the run as well as his ability to elude pressure.
The latter restriction became particularly burdensome given the how poorly the offensive line protected its quarterback on drop backs. Never a strength of the Pete Carroll-era Seahawks, the offensive line lost its two best members -- center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung -- in successive offseasons. More problematic still, the team chose to replenish the unit with undrafted rookies, converted defensive linemen and spare parts found in free agency. The makeshift group allowed Wilson to absorb numerous hits early in the season, leading not only to his injuries but also slowing down the healing process.
Yet over the past few weeks, Wilson has begun to show signs that his signature elusiveness could return. He switched from a bulky brace -- usually given to players coming off reconstructive-knee surgery -- to a smaller one that allows for greater movement. While more exposed, Wilson appears more comfortable and spry than he has in some time, dodging pass rushers that would have trapped him earlier in the season. The rushing yardage hasn't resurfaced for Wilson just yet, but his newfound mobility behind the line of scrimmage has tangibly impacted the Seahawks' play on offense.
Meanwhile, the offensive line has begun to make strides towards competency. Left guard Mark Glowinski has established himself as the team's premier interior blocker. Though still inconsistent in pass protection, Glowinski has excelled lately in the run game, regularly knocking off his primary assignment and making key blocks at the second level. On the other side, rookie Germain Ifedi has returned from a high-ankle sprain and begun to settle in at right guard. Questions still loom for the tackles and center Justin Britt, but the unit no longer yields pressure and misses blocks on seemingly every snap as it did earlier in the season.
But Wilson's health and the improvement by the offensive line don't provide a complete explanation for Seattle's spiking offense. The team has also received help from a familiar face written off by many and a rookie who made little impact before the Seahawks' trip to New England.
Considered damaged goods after a torn patellar tendon cut short his first season in Seattle, Jimmy Graham has steadily worked himself back into the player the team paid dearly for two offseasons ago. After back-to-back poor showings to open up the season, Graham exploded for 302 yards over a three-game stretch. Graham saved his best for the Seahawks tilt with the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago, catching every pass thrown his direction for 103 yards and two scores, his best performance since arriving in Seattle.
As he did for the New Orleans Saints during his prime, Graham can exploit the middle of the field with his massive 6-foot-7 frame and his athleticism. While he no longer possesses the burst that made him an All-Pro in 2013, he once again feels comfortable navigating the field and making plays in traffic.
Elsewhere, the Seahawks have discovered a new all-purpose weapon that could further transform their offense.
Since Marshawn Lynch's retirement the night of Super Bowl 50, Seattle has lacked a consistent presence in its offensive backfield. Thomas Rawls made waves as a rookie, but a fractured ankle derailed his momentum. Christine Michael came out of nowhere at the start of the season to provide some juice, but his productivity has declined recently with increased usage.
But as it turns out, the team had another promising back: rookie C.J. Prosise, waiting for the chance to show off his skills. That opportunity arrived this week with Michael's hamstring relegating him to a backup role and Rawls still at least a week away from returning to action.
In his first NFL start, Prosise accounted for 153 yards from scrimmage, confounding New England defenders on the ground and through the air in a manner reminiscent of his former Notre Dame teammate, Theo Riddick. Even after the Patriots adjusted their personnel for Prosise's presence, he remained an effective weapon. His biggest play -- a 38-yard reception to set up the Seahawks inside the 5-yard line -- came during a critical drive in the fourth quarter.
For Prosise's lack of refinement as a between-the-tackles runner -- he transitioned from wide receiver to running back just before his final collegiate season -- he creates mismatches every time the Seahawks send him on pass patterns out of the backfield. Few teams possess the linebackers necessary to adequately cover him, and cornerbacks rarely have the necessary size to handle the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Prosise after the pass arrives.
A broken wrist prevented Prosise from contributing earlier in the year. However, with his injury woes apparently behind him and Seattle's backfield suddenly uncluttered, the versatile tailback has the chance to become a weekly force for Seattle. His seven targets Sunday trailed only Doug Baldwin for the team lead and illustrate just how significant a role Prosise already commands in the offense.
With a new weapon adding to an already formidable arsenal, the Seahawks now appear poised to go on a second-half run similar to the one that catapulted them to 6-2 finish a season ago. However, unlike last year, they face no obvious threat from within the division, giving them the chance to secure a top seed and bye heading into the playoffs.