A neck surgery sidelined Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for the first five games of the season. But he didn’t miss a beat in his 2021 debut on Sunday against the Houston Texans, hauling in a team-best four receptions and 80 yards in the Colts’ 31-3 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. Andrew Walker
Carson Wentz knew exactly where the ball was going.
Heck, the entire Houston Texans' defense probably knew where it was going, too.
But from the Indianapolis Colts' opening snap of Sunday's Week 6 matchup against the Houston Texans, nobody was stopping T.Y. Hilton.
Just a little less than seven weeks ago, Hilton was feeling so down in the immediate aftermath of his neck surgery that he was seriously considering retiring from the NFL. After nine tremendous seasons and four Pro Bowl selections, he was so miserable that he wondered if he had played his last down.
Over time, however, Hilton's condition - and his mindset - improved. Placed on injured reserve to begin the season, he missed the Colts' first five games of the year before making his return to practice on Wednesday. He was officially activated off IR on Saturday, and there he was starting for the Colts' offense on Sunday against the Texans - the division rival he has tortured over and over (and over) again since being selected by Indy in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
On the Colts' first offensive play from scrimmage, Wentz immediately set his sights on No. 13. Hilton, who was lined up on the right side of the field against cornerback Terrance Mitchell, created separation with a picture-perfect comeback route, hauled in the on-time pass from Wentz and dove forward for a 12-yard gain.
It was the perfect tone-setter for Hilton in his 2021 debut. He would go on to haul in a team-best four receptions for 80 yards before leaving the game late as a precaution due to a quad injury, as the Colts routed the Texans 31-3 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"It was fun, man," Hilton said after the game. "The crowd had the energy - it was a little emotional running out of the tunnel. Just hearing those fans, man, makes it all worth it. And then being in the locker room with this team, these group of guys is unbelievable, and just the energy, the juice, that I bring to them, you (saw) it today. They just feed off my energy; me just being out there just brings so (many) smiles, so much enthusiasm to this team, and I just mean so much to them. So I'm glad I did it."
While the Colts (2-4) were coming off a Week 5 Monday night matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in which their offense registered 513 total net yards, their highest total in a single game since Week 3 of the 2014 season, Hilton's presence and playmaking ability adds yet another dangerous layer for Wentz and the Colts' offensive attack.
That was evident on Sunday, particularly early in the second quarter, when Wentz launched a perfectly-placed pass deep down the field to Hilton, who showed off his elite ball skills to haul in a 52-yard reception in heavy traffic down the sideline.
With Hilton back in the lineup against the Texans, the Colts logged 388 yards of total offense in yet another successful day for the unit.
"T.Y. played unbelievable," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "We knew (we were) looking for a spark from him. ... And then he came out here and he provided a spark, especially early - first play, obviously, we wanted to get it to him early, and then hit the big play to him.
"He is our leader," Reich continued. "He's one of our key leaders, and just love him in every way."
Hilton did leave Sunday's game early after suffering a quad injury during a 10-yard reception midway through the fourth quarter. While his status is worth monitoring over the next few days, both Reich and Hilton didn't immediately believe his injury was going to be anything serious.
If that does end up being the case, the next stop on Hilton's comeback tour will be next Sunday night on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. The ever-confident Hilton knows San Francisco has one of the best defensive units in the league, but he likes the chances of the Colts continuing their offensive momentum with him back in the lineup.
"You can expect us to be rolling," Hilton said.