By Danny O'Neil
INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn't the Seahawks' slow starts that caught up with them Sunday.
It wasn't an offensive line that was missing three starters nor the fact that starting tight end Zach Miller was out, too.
And no, it wasn't the officiating, either, though the Seahawks have every right to complain about getting the business end of the whistle after their 34-28 loss to the Colts.
There are any number of ways to explain why the Seahawks didn't win this game, but only one way to summarize why they lost: Seattle was stared down by an opposing quarterback for the first time this season.
Indianapolis' Andrew Luck did not blink like Carolina's Cam Newton did in the season opener or San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick did in Week 2. He did not shrink like Houston's Matt Schaub did in the second half last week in Houston.
The Seahawks were the NFL's best closers through the first month of the season, but it was Luck who finished them in Week 5.
"I really thought the quarterback did a great job of making some things happen," coach Pete Carroll said.
It's how Russell Wilson had made a number of opponents feel during Seattle's nine-game regular-season winning streak that stretched back to the beginning of last December.
But on Sunday, it was the Colts who converted five of six third-down opportunities in the second half, and it was Luck who completed 11 of the 16 passes he threw over the final two quarters. He threw for two touchdowns, refused to be badgered by significant pressure and showed that Seattle doesn't have an NFL patent on finishing strong.
"We felt like we had it," defensive end Red Bryant said. "We're known for finishing teams, and we weren't able to finish today."
Yes, this game probably would have been different were Jeron Johnson awarded a touchdown on that blocked punt in the first quarter instead of the Seahawks receiving a safety. It certainly would have been different if the Seahawks weren't penalized twice for defensive pass interference on third down, extending what turned out to be Indianapolis touchdown drives. And the fact the Seahawks managed only field goals in the second half didn't help Seattle nearly enough.
Seattle's defense allowed Andrew Luck to complete 11 of 16 second-half throws, one of which resulted in T.Y. Hilton's 29-yard touchdown reception. (AP) | More photos
In some ways, the loss was as inexplicable as the coverage Seattle blew on T.Y. Hilton's 73-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, the longest pass Seattle had given up in six years. Throw in the fact Seattle had a blocked field-goal attempt returned for a touchdown – something that hadn't happened to the Seahawks since 1988 – and there was a certain flukiness to the loss.
The Seahawks outgained the Colts 423 yards to 317 as both Wilson and Marshawn Lynch exceeded 100 yards rushing despite Seattle playing with a makeshift offensive line. The Seahawks scored enough points to win this game. They lost because a defense that has been so good for most of this season – one that hadn't allowed a second-half point in two road games – proved mortal.
Not fundamentally flawed, not necessarily a cause for concern, but mortal.
"We see things we needed to correct," cornerback Richard Sherman said, "and we'll correct them on Monday and keep going back at it."
This season won't be perfect, Sunday's loss sealed that. Now, it's up to the defense that had stared down every opponent in the first month of the season to find a way to make Luck blink next time.
"We still have our confidence, our swagger, all that," said safety Earl Thomas. "We just get back to work and prepare for Tennessee."