By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
INDIANAPOLIS — In the season’s first four games, the Seattle Seahawks had dominated their opponents in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 44-7.
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 penalty flags contributed to the loss. A blocked field goal was a major swing. A ruling on a play that appeared to be an end-zone recovery of a blocked punt by Jeron Johnson left the Seahawks with two points instead of six.
But nothing was more detrimental than the consistent stalls by the Seahawks’ offense around the Colts’ 30-yard line.
The Colts countered with third-down conversions and odd-angled throws that became completions. Indianapolis was 7-for-12 on third down. Seattle was 2-for-12 as the Seahawks lost for the first time in five games this season.
“The big plays that they made, they came through on,” Seahawks head 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 42-yarder. The Seahawks settled for the field goal when they couldn’t convert a third-and-15 at the Colts’ 24-yard line.
Hauschka attempted another field goal on Seattle’s fourth drive when the Seahawks couldn’t convert on third down at the Colts’ 30-yard line. The kick was blocked, scooped and returned 61 yards for an Indianapolis touchdown by Delano Howell.
The Seahawks drove to the Indianapolis 18-yard line, 23-yard line and 28-yard line in the third quarter. Each drive ended with Hauschka field goals.
Those three drives closed with third-down incompletions from Russell Wilson, who was erratic through the air — he finished 15-for-31 — but rushed for 102 yards.
“We’ve gotta 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 Sunday’s game may not be close.
Seattle was up 12-0 in the first quarter, including a 10-yard TD pass from Wilson to Golden Tate. The 12 points exceeded what the Seahawks had scored in the first quarter of the first four games, when Seattle scored a combined 10 points.
The 12-0 lead would have been larger if officials had agreed with Carroll’s assessment of a blocked punt. Jermaine Kearse, who also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, blocked the Colts’ punt on a play that started 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 of the end zone with the ball tucked against his body.
The play was ruled a safety, and after a review, officials confirmed the ruling instead of changing 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 in the first quarter when a coverage bust between cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas ended with a 73-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton, who finished with a career-high 140 receiving yards on five catches, including two for touchdowns. Howell’s 61-yard return of Haushcka’s blocked field goal in the second quarter gave the Colts a 14-12 lead. Kearse’s TD catch helped the Seahawks take a 19-17 halftime lead.
Hauschka kicked three field goals in the third quarter and Hilton scored again in the fourth quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck. Indianapolis’ Donald Brown scored on a 3-yard run and a two-point conversion gave the Colts a 31-28 lead 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 and unbowed after the game.
“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.