INDIANAPOLIS — T.Y. Hilton blamed himself for not doing enough in the Indianapolis Colts’ first two games this season.
He made amends for it Sunday.
The smallest receiver on the Colts’ roster came up big twice, making an acrobatic 8-yard catch on fourth-and-7 to keep the Colts’ drive alive following the 2-minute warning, then spinning away from safety Dexter McCoil for a 63-yard TD pass that gave Indy its first win of the season.
“I caught one (like that) earlier in the game, I caught it and just kind of started going down and I said, ‘I’m not going to go down anymore. If they’re going to tackle me, it’s going to take two or three of them,'” Hilton said after the 26-22 victory over San Diego . “Once I caught it, I saw a safety and he didn’t I think saw him so he tried to hit me and I just spun off and did the rest.”
Right on cue.
On Wednesday, Hilton referred to his four-catch, 41-yard game at Denver as “unacceptable.” And at the same time he was promising his injured friend, Donte Moncrief, that he “had his back,” Hilton was still trying to shake off the frustration of catching 10 passes for 120 yards in Indy’s two losses.
At the same time, his body was sore, too.
So coach Chuck Pagano gave Hilton an extra day off Friday and it appeared to work.
Hilton was his old self against the Chargers (1-2), catching balls, turning short throws into long plays and zig-zagging around the field to make defenders miss.
He finished with eight catches, 174 yards and the winning TD. It was his highest catch total since a 10-reception game against Cleveland on Dec. 7, 2014, and his highest yardage total since a 223-yard day against Houston on Oct. 9, 2014.
“It wasn’t frustrating, I just wasn’t giving my team a chance to win,” Hilton said when asked about his slow start to this season. “They look for me to make big plays and I wasn’t doing that the first two games and I told them, ‘I’m going to be the difference-maker today.’ I said earlier in the week, ‘I want to put it on me, put the game on me’ and that’s what I did today.”
On a day Andrew Luck went 24 of 37 with 331 yards and one interception, he looked Hilton’s way on almost a third of his pass attempts.
Hilton wound up catching all but three of the throws, including the one that prevented Indy (1-2) from starting 0-3 for the first time in five years.
“It isn’t doomsday, you know, but it is,” coach Chuck Pagano said, explaining how important Sunday’s victory was.
Luck, who missed practiced Wednesday and was limited Thursday because of a sore throwing shoulder, struggled at times and for the second straight week watched a defensive player scoop up one of his fumbles and return it for a score.
So with Luck a little off on his accuracy, including the fourth-down throw, it was Hilton who delivered the two most important plays in Indy’s young season.
“If anyone’s going to keep good on his promise, it’s going to be T.Y,” left tackle Anthony Castonozo said. “I’m just baffled on how fast he is. On that last one, obviously I saw it, the ball was out and I could see where he was at. Just seeing him run away from guys, stop and starting, it’s real impressive stuff.”