At Indianapolis Colts 34, Seattle Seahawks 28.
Settling four times for field goals instead of touchdowns, the Seahawks’ offense, missing four starters, didn’t have the firepower to win another road game in the late going, ending their nine-game, regular-season win streak and club-record 4-0 seasonal start. The absences of OLs Max Unger, Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini, and TE Zach Miller cost the Seahawks inside the 30-yard line.
Wilson’s brilliant scrambles were less a function of plan than desperation, due to mediocre pass protection and failure of pass catchers, notably Sidney Rice, to gain separation.
A 12-0 first-quarter lead slowly crumbled under Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck’s increasing prowess and 17 second-half Colts points, supported by a rare field goal attempt blocked and returned 61 yards for a touchdown — a potential 10-point swing.
Russell Wilson passed for 210 yards and ran for a career-high 102 yards, same as RB Marshawn Lynch, but the offense failed to convert 10 of 12 times on third down. Meanwhile Luck, after a slow start, helped Indy convert seven of its final nine third downs.
But Seahawks fans should be thrilled that after five weeks, Seattle’s one loss came only after it had a chance to beat a good team on the road with its final possession.
FISTS TO SKY
- The Seahawks scored on their first three possessions — field goal, 10-yard touchdown pass to WR Golden Tate and a safety that should have been a touchdown — while the defense forced the Colts into 3-and-outs on their first three possessions.
- Former University of Washington star WR Jermaine Kearse broke through to block a punt in the first quarter that turned into a safety. In the second quarter, he hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass with a leaping grab to put Seattle back in the lead, 19-14.
- RB Marshawn Lynch had his first 100-yard game (102 yards on 17 carries) as the Seahawks had the edge in controlling the line of scrimmage for running plays.
- LB Bruce Irvin returned to the starting lineup after a four-game suspension to a new position, strong-side linebacker, and had a sack and a tackle for loss among his four tackles, as well as a quarterback hit.
- Wilson had seven scramble runs for 10 or more yards, including his longest one for 22 yards that put the Seahawks near midfield on their final possession.
- DE Chris Clemons strip-sacked Andrew Luck and forced a fumble the Seahawks recovered at the Colts 39-yard-line. But Clemons’ swipe at the ball hit Luck hard on the helmet, yet no flag was thrown.
PALMS TO FOREHEAD
- The blocked punt was recovered in the end zone by SS Jeron Johnson and initially called a touchdown, but after the mandatory replay review of scoring plays, officials said he failed to control the ball before he slid out of the back of the end zone, reducing the score to a safety. The lack of ball control appeared impossible to verify from the replays shown on TV.
- PK Steven Hauschka was four-for-four on the field goals that cleared the line of scrimmage. But his attempt early in the second quarter was blocked as the Seahawks interior line protection failed and lineman Lawrence Guy made the deflection. Delano Howell caught the ball on the fly and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.
- Targeted four times, WR Sidney Rice had one catch for eight yards. On the first possession of the third quarter, Seattle’s drive stalled at the 18-yard line when Rice appeared to stumble at the goal line, unable to reach Wilson’s pass, forcing a field goal.
- After Indianapolis took the lead 29-28 following a touchdown with 8:55 left in the game, the Colts lined up to go for a two-point PAT. But the Seahawks were in the wrong personnel grouping and had to burn their last timeout to get right. The Colts scored anyway, on a pass to veteran Reggie Wayne, for a 31-28 lead.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on the outcome: “The game was there to be had for us. We gave up some big plays. We didn’t get touchdowns on several drives. We had opportunities to capitalize and we didn’t . . . We gotta go home and get back on track.”
On the failure to convert more than two first downs in 12 third-down tries: We didn’t close out drives. We ran for a lot of yards, Russell ran for a lot yards. The front did the best they could. We had plenty of chances to win the game.”
On the replay call that turned a recovered blocked punt from a touchdown to a safety: “I was sure they would overturn it. (Johnson) had the ball to his chest, and we saw it well. They saw that the ball wasn’t secure. (The touchdown call) would have been a much different margin then (17-0 instead of 12-0). Not seeing that was a huge swing for us. When you lose, all (missed) calls get magnified. There were a number of calls in question, unfortunately.”
On the two big Colts TD passes to WR T.Y. Hilton: “We busted on the first one, and the second one he just ran by us.”
On the Colts’ second-half offense: “Andrew Luck made some fantastic plays, some incredible throws. Reggie Wayne made a couple of great catches. They were right on their guys.”
On the outcome: “I thought we controlled the game in terms of moving the football. We didn’t capitalize. We’ve got to score more touchdowns. It’s something we can fix. We were so close We just fell short. They made one more big play than we did.”
On the first loss: “Nothing was too big for us. There’s been only one perfect (season). The Dolphins, right? We had a lot of situations we could control, and for whatever reason, we didn’t make them.”
On the lack of timeouts for the final drive: “We weren’t worried about that. We had a great scramble to start (Wilson went for 22 yards). They made a nice play one pass. We weren’t scared by the situation; coach Carroll puts us (in practice) in these situations where we have two, one or no timeouts. He said today, ‘Don’t hurry.’ That situation will come up again. I love that.”
On the hit after he released his final pass that was intercepted: “He made a good play and hit me pretty good. I was hoping there was a flag. An automatic first down would have been nice. But I don’t expect that.”
On the frequency of his runs: “I want to hand the ball to Marshawn every single chance I get. My running is a is added dimension. I go through my progressions, and then try to get something positive. The key is being smart, understanding the situations.”
On the lack of third-down conversions: We struggled on third down last year at this point and we fixed it. We’ll find a way to get first downs.”
In a complete reversal of the previous road game in Houston, the Seahawks started fast, then faded in the second half. The good news for Seahawks fans is the team can play well around the game clock. The bad news is they lost their first game after a franchise-record start.
Before the season, even optimistic fans would have circled the game at Indianapolis as the toughest place in the first half of the season for a win. Luck and his teammates, who routed the 49ers in San Francisco, were true to form.
The Seahawks have some obvious and significant protection issues with their diminished offensive line that also operated without TE Zach Miller. They attempted to compensate by rolling out Wilson and encouraging him to take off running. But his accuracy was affected; there were times when, unpressured, he flat-out overthrew receivers that were open.
Carroll has to find a way to deal with his inexperienced line that also doesn’t burden Wilson. The loss was an ooga horn that the current shortcomings leave Wilson vulnerable. It is time to let a playmaker such as Kearse see more scrimmage daylight than Rice, who seems on a fade.