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Colts’ notebook: Ho hum, another big day by T.Y. Hilton vs. Houston

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 09: T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after the Houston Texans defense was drawn offsides in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – T.Y. Hilton needs to update his bio. You know, the one that mentions he’s from South Florida, attended Miami Springs H.S., moved on to Florida International and now calls Indy home.

The easy edit: Owns a large piece of property in Houston. It’s currently called NRG Stadium.

“Like everybody says, this is my second home, but it feels good,’’ Hilton said Sunday after another over-the-top outing against the Texans in Houston.

The Indianapolis Colts’ Pro Bowl wideout co-starred with pitch-and-catch sidekick Andrew Luck in a 24-21 win over Houston. Luck finished with 399 yards and two touchdowns, and did his heaviest damage on 12 targets to Hilton, who finished with 9 catches and 199 yards.

It marked the seventh time in 14 games against Houston Hilton had eclipsed the 100-yard mark, and the fourth time in Houston. Moreover, he routinely exploits the Texans’ secondary. Of the top five games of his career, including the playoffs, three have come in Houston: 223 yards in 2014, 199 Sunday and 175 in ’17.

Hilton is averaging 103.2 yards in his career against the Texans, and 133.3 in Houston.

Video study during the week revealed another big day was possible, even likely.

“We saw some opportunities on film that we thought we could take advantage of,’’ Luck said.

Hilton agreed.

“We had some matchups that we liked and we took advantage of them,’’ he said. “Guys stood up and played major.

“Fourteen (Zach Pascal), man, incredible. (Eric) Ebron was Ebron. He came through and then Chester (Rogers) with big third-down screens that kept the chains moving, flipping the field. Everybody contributed in a major way.’’

Everyone followed the lead of Hilton.

“Great teammate,’’ Luck said. “Great player. He does some things that not many other people can do.’’

Once again, the Texans seemed to be casual observers. Hilton’s big day included a slew of much-needed chunk plays: receptions of 60, 34, 29 and 28 yards.

“I think him and Luck have great chemistry,’’ Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. “You know, you see some of the balls he had. He didn’t have to break stride, just came out (of his break) and the ball was right on him.

“But that’s what top receivers and great quarterbacks do. Any time you play in this league, you’ve got to stop those guys . . . that’s what the game is – quarterbacks and receivers.’’

Houston coach Bill O’Brien described Hilton as “a great player. He’s got speed. A great route runner. He’s got good hands. They line him up in all kinds of different places. He’s a great player.’’

Hilton posted his 12th game with at least 150 yards, surpassing Marvin Harrison’s team record. Since 2012, that ties him with Antonio Brown and leaves him one shy of Julio Jones for the most 150-plus yard games.

“T.Y. likes the biggest stage,’’ left tackle Anthony Castonzo said of Hilton once again making himself right at home in Houston. “The bigger the stage, I think the more excited T.Y. gets to play.

“This was a big stage for him and he went out there and performed.’’

Record for Ebron

Tight end Eric Ebron extended what already is the best season of his five-year career. He caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown.

The TD was his 12th, which eclipsed Dallas Clark’s single-season record by a tight end set in 2007.

Defense steps up

Luck praised the defense for keeping Houston within reach while the offense was finding its way in the first half.

“Defense did a great job of not letting the game get away,’’ he said.

The defense has been making strides all season, and entered the game ranked 11th overall and 15th in fewest points allowed. Sunday was the latest step forward.

It limited Houston to 315 total yards and kept quarterback Deshaun Watson and wideout DeAndre Hopkins from break-out games. Watson passed for 267 yards and one touchdown, but was sacked five times. Hopkins was targeted on 10 of Watson’s 38 passes, but was limited to 4 catches, 36 yards and the TD.

Also, Houston brought the NFL’s No. 3-ranked run game into Sunday. It managed just 89 yards on 25 attempts.

“We know what kind of team we have,’’ rookie linebacker Darius Leonard said. “We know what kind of talent we have in the room. We don’t blink on defense.’’

Leonard led the defense with 12 tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss. Denico Autry, who had three sacks last week at Jacksonville, added two more at the expense of Watson. Kenny Moore II and Margus Hunt also notched sacks.

The defense finished with 9 tackles for loss. Autry and Jabaal Sheard had two each.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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