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Russell Wilson leading Seahawks' annual winter charge

SEATTLE -- You just knew this time was coming, when Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson would hit his stride. The knee and ankle injuries that once plagued him would become old news. The questions about the inconsistency in the Seattle offense would vanish suddenly. For a team that has proven that the second half of the regular season is its time to shine, Wilson would be right back where he belongs, as the man pushing the Seahawks to heights they always expect to achieve.

That was the most important lesson to be gleaned in the wake of Seattle's 26-15 win over Philadelphia on Sunday. Wilson has been playing better with each passing week, and it's now obvious that he's only going to keep trending upward. The numbers he produced against the Eagles -- 18 for 31 passing, 272 yards and a touchdown -- only partly tell the story of how effectively he performed. This was about the Wilson we've come to know -- the guy dancing and darting, spinning and winning, the undaunted leader who makes miracles happen when disaster seems inevitable.

That was the player Philadelphia faced. They had no answer for him, and it's likely that few opponents will as the Seahawks start another one of their second-half surges. "I thought Russell looked really good today," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team has now won 28 of its last 34 regular season games played in the second half of the regular season. "I thought he moved beautifully and he made some tremendous plays ... He's protecting himself and getting down well. He looks like he's back."

It's not a coincidence that the Seahawks are heating up at the same time Wilson is regaining his groove. This team needed a big Monday night win over Buffalo in Week 9 -- especially after suffering a loss and a tie in two previous games -- and Wilson threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. They went across the country to face New England six days later, and Wilson outplayed Tom Brady in that 31-24 victory (Wilson threw for 348 yards and three scores that night). Throw in the Eagles game and you can see where this is heading -- Wilson is looking very much like the man who went off last season.

The Seahawks rolled to the postseason in 2015 while watching Wilson dominate the final seven games of that year. He threw 24 touchdowns passes and only one interception during that stretch, all the while solidifying the fact that his days of being seen solely as a crafty game manager had long since ended. Wilson already is proving that the Seattle offense will be similarly dangerous in the coming weeks. In fact, a key statistic to remember right now is that the Seahawks have had only one turnover in their last seven games.

Much of the credit for that comes back to their Pro Bowl quarterback. "We've had a good season already, but there's more out there for us," Wilson said. "We're in the right spot. We're [7-2-1] and we want to continue to win. As a collective effort on offense, we're doing the right things. We're moving the ball ... There's a lot more out there, and that's the great part about where we are."

The Seahawks still aren't benefiting from the kind of pressure Wilson can put on defenses with his legs -- he only has 79 yards rushing through 10 games after averaging 607.5 yards in his first four seasons -- but they also may not need him to be that active on the ground anymore. Seattle has plenty of weapons around him these days. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin continues to prove he's one of the most underrated targets in the league, while tight end Jimmy Graham has shown why the Seahawks traded for him last season. The running game also received a noticeable lift Sunday, as hard-charging Thomas Rawls gained 57 of Seattle's season-high 152 rushing yards.

There's no doubting the Seahawks are becoming more dynamic, especially since this team opened this season by generating all of 15 points in its first two games. Running back C.J. Prosise raced to a 72-yard touchdown before leaving the game with a shoulder injury that Carroll said looked fairly serious. Graham scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass that resulted from Wilson scrambling and buying time before finding him open downfield. Baldwin also added a 44-yard reception while fellow wide receiver Tyler Lockett produced a 30-yard grab on a crossing pattern.

It's hard to deal with a team that can hit you from so many directions. It's even tougher when that same team has a defense as destructive as Seattle's. The Eagles may have managed to turn this game into an 11-point loss, but they were really never in it. And this is a squad that has been able to contend most of the season precisely because its defense can cause plenty of problems up front.

This is why Sunday's game was merely more evidence that the Seahawks are now a scarier playoff contender in the NFC than the Dallas Cowboys. This is their time of year, and their quarterback knows that. "It's pretty simple," Wilson said, when asked why Seattle plays so well in November and December. "When you work at something, you expect a lot out of it. It's a constant process, but we have to approach it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and not try to make it too big. We've played in a lot of big games and big moments, but nothing is too big for us."

The Seahawks have been dominant enough to claim one Super Bowl win during Carroll's seven-year tenure (while losing another in the final seconds to New England in Super Bowl XLIX). What makes this team different is that it feels more complete. A phenomenal defense always has defined the Seahawks' success, while the bruising running of the retired Marshawn Lynch was the key to the offense. Seattle never had to be so dangerous while possessing the football. All it had to be was efficient and effective.

Those days are now over. Seattle has evolved offensively, and Wilson has grown into an elite quarterback. We saw how disjointed this unit could be when he was wounded earlier this year. Now we're witnessing the revival one week at a time, the complete array of what this offense could be when operating at its best.

Even a patchwork offensive line has continued to blossom, particularly since it only allowed one sack on Sunday. Said Carroll: "Everything has shifted. You've seen us make shifts in the past [and] this is one of those big shifts for us. It's really exciting to see. We feel aggressive ... and Russell was moving. We're kind of liking what it feels like, and we'll see if we can keep growing with it."

The key, as usual, will be Wilson's continued ascension. He's looking stronger and playing with more confidence, and it's apparent that the Seattle coaches feel quite comfortable calling more plays that lead to bigger results. That may have something to do with the time of year we're in, as we've always come to expect significant strides from Seattle when winter arrives. This time, it has just as much to do with the offensive leader getting back to being the player we've always been used to seeing.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter @jeffrichadiha.

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