INDIANAPOLIS — The end for the Seahawks is often the beginning of a glorious final step.
Tight, pressure-filled games have been delectable outings for Seattle the past two seasons. This year, while outscoring opponents 44-7 in the fourth quarter in the first four games, the Seahawks have dominated at the finish.
The Indianapolis Colts beat the Seahawks, 34-28, with 11 unanswered fourth-quarter points in Lucas Oil Stadium, snapping Seattle’s nine-game regular-season winning streak.
A coverage bust and flags contributed to the loss. A blocked field goal was a major swing. A ruling that what appeared to be an end-zone recovery of a blocked punt by Jeron Johnson left the Seahawks with two points instead of six.
Though, nothing was more detrimental than consistent stalls for the Seahawks’ offense around the Colts’ 30-yard line. Seattle had six drives where it ran out of air just before surfacing.
The Colts countered with conversions and odd-angled throws that became completions. Indianapolis was 7-for-12 on third downs. Seattle was 2-for-12. The Seahawks are 4-1 as a result.
“The big plays that they made, they came through on,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We had our shots, we didn’t get the ones we needed.”
The trend started early.
Seattle scored for the first time this season on its opening drive when Steven Hauschka, a busy man Sunday with five field-goal attempts, hit a 24-yarder. The Seahawks were stuck at the Colts’ 24-yard line when they couldn’t convert a third-and-15, leaning on Hauschka for points.
Hauschka was summoned again on Seattle’s fourth drive which petered out at the Colts’ 30-yard line. This kick was blocked, scooped and returned 61 yards by Delano Howell for an Indianapolis touchdown.
The Seahawks drove to the Indianapolis 18-yard line, 23-yard line and 28-yard line in the third quarter. Each endeavor ended with Hauschka field goals.
Those three drives closed with third-down incompletions from Russell Wilson, who was erratic through the air – 15-for-31 – but scampered for 102 yards.
The final polish that usually comes from the Seahawks did not show up against the Colts.
“We’ve got to find a way to get more touchdowns,” Wilson said. “Once we do that, that game won’t be close.”
Based on the Seahawks’ start, it appeared the game may not be close.
Seattle was up 12-0 in the first quarter, finally finding life at the start of a game. The total exceeded what it had done the prior four first quarters combined when it scored just 10 points.
The lead would have been larger if officials had agreed with Carroll’s assessment of a blocked punt. Jermaine Kearse blocked the Colts’ punt attempt at the 27-yard line. Safety Jeron Johnson sprinted toward the ball and fell on it in the end zone, sliding out of the back with it tucked against his body.
After a review, officials confirmed the play as a safety instead of overturning the call to a touchdown. Carroll was surprised.
“I was sure they were (going to overturn it),” Carroll said.
The Colts rocketed back into the game when a coverage bust between cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas ended with a 71-yard touchdown for T.Y. Hilton, who finished with a career-high 140 receiving yards. Howell’s 61-yard return of Haushcka’s blocked field goal vaulted the Colts in front 14-12.
The Seahawks countered with jabs from Hauschka. Their lead never stretched back to double figures. Hilton scored again in the fourth quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck and third-string running back Donald Brown dove in from three yards out to put the Colts up 31-28 after a 2-point conversion with 8:55 remaining in the game.
Seattle didn’t cross the 50-yard line again.
“The game was there to be had for us in a number of different ways,” Carroll said.
Sherman was terse, a tad cliched but also unbowed afterward.
“We’ll flush it right after we watch it tomorrow,” Sherman said. “We’re 4-1 and lead our division. C’mon. Same old.”
Except, Sunday, it wasn’t. That’s why the Seahawks are no longer undefeated.