So here I am plopped on the couch last Saturday afternoon watching the NFL playoffs when it hits me.
With high school sports on hiatus during the holiday season, what the heck was I going to put together for a Gazette sports page this week?
Three or four hours later, when the Indianapolis Colts had just completed the second-greatest comeback in NFL history to stun the Kansas City Chiefs, I had my answer.
Ever since he graduated 5 1/2 years ago from Miami Springs High School, I have worked very hard not to overdose my readers with too much “ T.Y. Hilton news.”
But last Saturday, following a spectacular watershed performance in a miracle 45-44 come-from-behind win over K.C., I had my sports page material for this week. So get ready to get “T.Y. Hiltoned.”
After unabashedly declaring him the greatest athlete to ever graduate in Miami Springs High School’s 45-year history on these pages in May 2008, Hilton slam-dunked my case for me on Saturday as he reeled in 13 Andrew Luck passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, the lucky 13th turning out to be the biggest of his young career.
With his team trailing 44-38 with just over four minutes left, Hilton blew past Chiefs defensive backs Kendrick Lewis and Hussain Abdullah on a deep post like they were an annoying bad habit and Luck hit him in stride for a 64-yard touchdown and an unlikely victory as the Colts trailed 38-10 early in the third quarter.
“When I went onto the field after we got the ball, coach (head coach Chuck) Pagano told me, ‘Go win the game for us,’ ” Hilton said in his postgame press conference. “So when we got in the huddle, me and Andrew started talking and he called the play and said, ‘Just run, just run.’ I knew how they were playing me, so I took an outside release, got up on the safety, got his hips turned and Andrew let it go and hit me in stride.”
“He’s unbelievable. He’s a game-wrecker,” Pagano told Colts.com after the game. “In these type of games, big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games and that’s what T.Y. did today. He’s stepped up many times before and he did it again for us today.”
But this was about so much more than just one play as this was nothing close to your average performance. Hilton’s 13 catches moved him right up near the top in the NFL record books as it tied him for second-most receptions in a postseason game in NFL history. And the company he shares that record with?
Try Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas and San Diego Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow, who both happen to have a bust in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. (New Orleans RB Darren Sproles set the record of 15 two years ago in a playoff loss to San Francisco).
The 224 reception yards? Right up there, too. The third-most in NFL postseason history behind Buffalo’s Eric Moulds (240 vs. Miami, 1998) and Minnesota’s Anthony Carter (227 vs. San Francisco, 1987).
We’re not done yet. Saturday’s performance was his 10th 100-yard game since entering the league, meaning that he joined Randy Moss (Minnesota 1998-99) and Torry Holt (St. Louis 1999-2000) as the only receivers to record double-digit 100-yard games in their first two seasons since 1970 (Moss had 11, Holt 10).
We’re still not done. If there is such thing as a sophomore jinx, it didn’t affect Hilton in 2013 as he finished the regular season ninth the NFL with 1,083 yards on 82 receptions along with five touchdowns.
It’s also been a record-setting first two seasons for him as well as he set the team mark for the most receiving yards after two years with 1,944. In the Colts’ final regular season game Hilton enjoyed a career-high 11-catch, 155 yard afternoon in a 30-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Little did everyone know that he was just warming up for the Kansas City game. Doing the math, 24 catches for 379 yards in your last two games can mean only one thing.
It means that Hilton no doubt will be on New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s radar as he prepares his team to host the Colts in Foxborough this Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff game.
“Can’t even put a hand on it,” Hilton said after the 28-point comeback win. “We’re a resilient team. We don’t quit. We don’t give up. We always go fight until the end. Sixty minutes, don’t judge, that’s our motto. One thing you can’t measure with this group of guys is our heart.”