Colts T.Y. Hilton: I have to step up my game this week
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – T.Y. Hilton’s highlight reel from his four-plus seasons as the Indianapolis Colts’ game-breaking receiver includes several snippets achieved at the expense of the Houston Texans.
Remember his career-best 223 yards? Oct. 9, 2014. At Houston. On a Thursday night prime-time stage.
How about his career-high three touchdown catches? Nov. 3, 2013. At Houston. On Sunday night, and they were part of a seven-catch, 121-yard starring role.
In eight shots at the Texans’ secondary, Hilton has 43 receptions, 778 yards and six TDs.
Yet as the Colts prepare for yet another prime-time meeting with Houston – Sunday evening at NRG Stadium – Hilton’s thoughts aren’t on a few of his break-out games.
“I haven’t been playing well against them the past two games,’’ he said Wednesday, “so I’ve got to step my game up this week.’’
Houston held Hilton in check last season: a combined eight catches for 117 yards while being targeted 14 times. However, it’s worth nothing Andrew Luck missed each game with a lacerated kidney, and it was up to Matt Hasselbeck to run the offense.
Now, Luck and Hilton are together again. In their six games against the Texans, they’ve struck for 35 completions, 661 yards and six TDs.
Luck and Hilton have been fine-tuning a working relationship since each arrived in 2012; Luck as the ultra-hyped first overall pick out of Stanford and Hilton as the under-the-radar third-round pick out of Florida International.
“Like any relationship, personally (and) professionally, it takes time to build,’’ Luck said. “T.Y. is a heck of a guy. He’s a great teammate. He’s a joy for football and life’s infectious when you’re around him.’’
Building that rapport, he added, involves “just reps, being around each other and practice and throwing sessions. Little things like that, they do pay off.
“Then the game experience with a person is hard to replicate it. When you’ve got it with multiple years with a guy makes it that much easier to play with him and easier to read body language, how he comes out of breaks, communication.
“We both have definitely put the work in to make it work.’’
And, again, it’s worked best against the Texans. Hilton has eclipsed the 100-yard three times against Houston and has had at least four catches on six occasions.
Sunday night should serve as a stuff test for the Luck-Hilton connection.
While Houston’s offense has yet to get untracked behind newly-acquired quarterback Brock Osweiler – 27th in yards, tied for 31st in scoring – its defense is stiff. It’s No. 5 in yards allowed (300.4) and No. 1 against the pass (181.0).
Even without all-world end J.J. Watt, who’s on injured reserve with a back injury, the Texans have piled up 13 sacks and 35 QB hits, and limited opposing QBs to a 79.0 passer rating and 56.9 completion percentage. Linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus spur the pass rush while cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph anchor the secondary.
On more than one occasion coach Chuck Pagano used the term “suffocating’’ to describe Houston’s defense.
“They play as a unit,’’ he said. “Everybody plays really well. Their front seven gets after the quarterback and their back end . . . sometimes they like to jump stuff and sometimes they like to sit back and just come up. There are going to be a lot of contested catches that we’ve just got to come down with.
“We’re going to have to protect Andrew and give him time to deliver the ball and let Frank (Gore) run.’’
Hilton is coming off a 10-catch, 171-yard game against the Chicago Bears that included the game-winning 35-yard touchdown 3:43 to play. He ranks third in the NFL with 35 receptions and fifth with 507 yards.