Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 05:18 PM
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."
• The Seahawks have agreed to a multiyear extension of their radio broadcast contract with Bonneville International, which will continue airing Seahawks games on 710 ESPN Seattle (KIRO AM) and KIRO Radio (97.3 FM). KIRO AM has been the broadcast partner since the Seahawks' inaugural season in 1976.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @dannyoneil.NFC West watch
The 49ers didn't lose Sunday, but their 24-24 tie against St. Louis was almost as good from Seattle's perspective in how it affected the Seahawks' chances of winning the NFC West.
The Seahawks have the same number of wins as the 49ers and twice as many losses, but that doesn't really explain Seattle's situation.
Seattle is unlikely to hold a tiebreaker advantage over San Francisco in determining a division championship. The 49ers have already beaten the Seahawks, which makes it impossible for Seattle to hold a tiebreaker advantage by virtue of head-to-head record. The 49ers have a markedly better division record, which would be the second tiebreaking criteria if the teams were to split their head-to-head meetings.
All that means the Seahawks most likely must finish ahead of San Francisco. That's why the 49ers' tie was almost as good as a loss from Seattle's perspective. Seattle went from needing to finish a game ahead of San Francisco to having the possibility of finishing a half-game ahead of the 49ers.
The simplest way to boil down Seattle's division title hopes is the 49ers must suffer two more losses than Seattle does over the final seven weeks of the season.
San Francisco/6-2 ½-0-1
St. Louis/3-5 ½-0-1
COLIN DILTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Seattle's Bruce Irvin (51) is the first to get to Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, and if he didn't get the job done, his teammates were ready to help.