INDIANAPOLIS — It’s dangerous to take it down to the wire against a team with horse shoes on its helmets and a quarterback named Luck.
Still, the Seahawks’ 34-28 loss at Indianapolis was not a matter of ill fortune as much as squandered opportunity, and afterward, players were left counting all the points they should have scored but didn’t.
And after a month of nothing but rallying and winning and living on the competitive edge, the Seahawks found themselves dealing with some realities.
Most notably: This two-week stretch of road games against Houston and Indianapolis was expected to be the most challenging fortnight of the season, and a split would still set them up nicely.
They achieved that. Besides, it wasn’t likely they were going to win all 16.
“Hey, the good news is we’re 4-1, coming back home, and you can bet your tail that we’re going to have a great week of practice and we’re going to come back firing,” receiver Golden Tate said.
The Seahawks rallied to a win in overtime last Sunday at Houston, but in that case Texans quarterback Matt Schaub cooperated with a costly mistake. Indy’s Andrew Luck did the opposite, finding receivers in tight windows and leading the Colts to 11 points in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks mostly were cautious with their post-game complaints, but they were clearly not pleased with a couple debatable pass-interference calls, and a ruling that gave them a safety rather than a touchdown on a blocked punt in the first quarter.
“I think we did a great job early on, but we just can’t bust coverages and have mental errors, especially on the road,” safety Earl Thomas said.
As he referenced, the bulk of the Seahawks problems were of their own making.
They drove the ball to the Indy 30 or closer on seven occasions, and scored just two touchdowns and four field goals. They converted on only two of 12 third downs.
They also had a punt blocked and returned for a score, and gave up 34 points, more than any game since Oct. 30, 2011 (Cincinnati).
The vaunted Legion of Boom secondary saw receiver T.Y. Hilton catch five passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
More troubling, for the second time in two weeks, opposing receivers seemed to get free because of assignment mistakes, the mark of an inexperienced secondary, not a quartet featuring three Pro Bowl players and an All-Pro.
And the offensive line, playing without four starters (two tackles, a center and the tight end), left quarterback Russell Wilson with time to do little but take a quick peek downfield and then take off running to avoid pressure.
The problems with the line were to be expected, making it even more impressive that running back Marshawn Lynch and Wilson each rushed for 102 yards. Make that 102 extremely difficult yards.
As disappointing as the loss was, it doesn’t change much about how the season is shaping up for the Seahawks. That is, unless it helped establish a blueprint for beating them, and they fail to improve the areas of concern.
“There’s going to be other tough games,” Wilson said. “It’s the National Football League. Every game is not going to be easy; every game it going to be close. We’re prepared for that fight and we’ll be prepared for it when it comes up again.”
One of the pregame narratives hailed this as a duel between Luck and Wilson, a pair of second-year quarterbacks destined for NFL stardom. They both showed the goods.
Wilson has led seven fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives, but at the end on Sunday, it was Luck’s turn.
“There’s only been one perfect team to ever play the game,” Wilson said, pointing to the 1972 Miami Dolphins. “So you just look forward to the next opportunity. After a loss, leaders (need to) pick up everybody else and make sure they’re all on the same page and continue to be positive.”
Injuries have piled up, things did not go their way, and they played a tough team on the road. So Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll both pointed to the main positive takeaway.
“We had some tremendous fight in us near the end today,” Wilson said. “That’s big, and we need to keep bringing that to the table.”
“I love the way we fought and the way we played and the way that we got after it,” Carroll said. “So we have a lot to move forward with.”