INDIANAPOLIS — The end of games for the Seattle Seahawks is often the beginning of a glorious final step.
Tight, pressure-filled contests have been delectable outings for Seattle the past two years.
This season, while far outscoring opponents in the fourth quarter the Seahawks had dominated their first four foes.
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The Indianapolis Colts beat the Seahawks, 34-28, after scoring 11 unanswered fourth-quarter points at 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 after Jeron Johnson appeared to recover a blocked punt in the end zone left the Seahawks with two points instead of six.
Nothing was more detrimental than the Seahawks’ frequent stalls around the Colts’ 30-yard line. Seattle had six drives run 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-down plays. Seattle was 2-for-12. The Seahawks are 4-1 as a result.
“The big plays that they made, they came through on,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We had our shots. We didn’t get the ones we needed.”
The trend started early.
Steven Hauschka, a busy man Sunday with five field-goal attempts, hit a 42-yarder on Seattle’s opening drive. The Seahawks were stuck at the Colts’ 24 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. This kick was blocked, scooped up 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.
Two of those three drives closed with incomplete third-down passes from Russell Wilson. He was erratic through the air — just 15-for-31 — but he scampered for 102 yards.
The final polish that usually comes from the Seahawks – a 44-7 edge in the fourth quarters of the first four games – did not show up against the Colts.
“We’ve got a 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 as if the game might not be close.
Seattle built a 12-0 first-quarter lead, finally finding life at the start of a game. The Seahawks had scored 10 first-quarter points over their first four games.
The lead would have been larger if officials had agreed with Carroll’s assessment of a blocked punt. Former Lakes High School and University of Washington standout Jermaine Kearse blocked the Colts’ punt attempt at the 27. Johnson sprinted toward the ball and fell on it in the end zone, sliding out of the back with the ball tucked against his body.
After review, officials confirmed the call of a safety instead of 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 73-yard touchdown catch for T.Y. Hilton, who finished with a career-high 140 yards receiving. Howell’s 61-yard return of Hauschka’s blocked field goal vaulted the Colts ahead, 14-12.
The Seahawks countered with jabs from Hauschka, but their lead never again stretched to double figures. Hilton scored in the third quarter on a 29-yard TD pass from Andrew Luck, and third-string running back Donald Brown dived in from 3 yards out to put the Colts up 31-28 with 8:55 remaining in the game.
Seattle didn’t cross the 50-yard line again. Adam Vinatieri kicked a 49-yard field goal to cap the scoring.
“The game was there to be had for us in a number of different ways,” Carroll said.
Sherman was terse, a tad clichéd, 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.