Colts’ T.Y. Hilton questionable, but Robert Mathis full-go for Broncos

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 6, 2015) – An Indianapolis Colts offense already dealing with a change with its coordinator and facing the NFL’s most dominant defense Sunday afternoon might be without T.Y. Hilton.

The Pro Bowl receiver is listed as questionable for Sunday’s clash with Denver’s No. 1-ranked defense. His availability might not be determined until prior to the game.

Hilton suffered a sprained left foot in Monday night’s loss at Carolina when Panthers cornerback Josh Norman rolled over while defending a deep pass from Andrew Luck it in the third quarter. He didn’t practice all week.

Coach Chuck Pagano said Hilton spent Friday working with the trainers.

“Did some treadmill, did some field stuff. Ran pretty good,’’ he said. “We’ll see how he feels when he comes in (Saturday morning), see what the byproduct of the work today is, how he feels.’’

It’s never ideal when a player, even one of Hilton’s caliber, misses an entire week of practice.

“It’s not like he’s going to forget everything; smart, smart, smart guy,’’ Pagano said. “You’d love to have guys that practice and go through and take the snaps.

“It’s a tall order for everybody right now on that side of the ball.’’

On Tuesday, Pagano fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and replaced him with Rob Chudzinski.

If Hilton is out, Luck’s top three receivers will be Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and Griff Whalen. Chudzinski also is expected to get tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen more involved.

Even though Hilton has been inconsistent this season, he still leads the Colts with 38 receptions and 621 yards. His three touchdowns trail Moncrief’s five.
Hilton suffered a bruised left knee in the season opener at Buffalo, but did not miss any playing time.

His absence would make Sunday’s challenge more daunting.

The Broncos’ defense ranks No. 1 in total yards (261.1), passing yards (171.9) and points (16) allowed. It also has a league-high 29 sacks. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. arguably form the top cornerback tandem in the league.

Mathis: no restrictions The “pitch count’’ that monitored Robert Mathis’ playing time as he returned from a torn Achilles tendon has been lifted.
“He has no limitations right now,’’ Pagano said.

The Colts have gradually increased Mathis’ repetitions, and he was on the field for a season-high 70 percent (54 of 75) of the plays in Monday night’s loss at Carolina.

Despite the limited work, Mathis leads the Colts with four sacks and nine quarterback hits.

“I feel great,’’ he said. “I don’t feel any restrictions. Get warmed up and ready to go.’’

The timing couldn’t be better.

Sunday, the Colts face quarterback Peyton Manning for the fourth time since he signed with the Denver Broncos during the 2012 offseason.

Mathis played a major role in the first meeting. The Colts ruined Manning’s return to Indy – Oct. 20, 2013 – with a 39-33 victory, and Mathis’ second-quarter blindside sack-strip was the catalyst. It resulted in a safety and narrowed Denver’s lead to 14-12. The Colts took a 19-14 lead on the ensuing possession when Luck hit Stanley Havili with a 20-yard touchdown.

“He rolled out and he was looking downfield for a home run,’’ Mathis said. “Fans loved it, (but) it’s ancient history now.’’

The novelty of facing Manning has worn off.

“The first time was weird, funny or whatnot,’’ Mathis said. “That happens when you play 10 years with a guy. He’s an opposing quarterback now, and that’s how we take it.’’

Mathis and Manning stay in contact, and Manning offered Mathis a supportive text after Mathis suffered the season-ending Achilles injury in September 2014.

“Good friends, teammates for 10 years and won a championship,’’ Mathis said. “The mutual respect and friendship is still there.’’
There’s no overstating the potential impact of a full-go Mathis.

“He looks tremendous,’’ Pagano said. “He’s got speed, he’s got burst. He’s always a threat coming off the edge.

“People have to account for Rob. He’s a matchup guy that creates issues for our opponents.’’

Manning has noticed.

“Sure, yeah,’’ he said. “Robert is making a lot of plays. When you combine ability with that type of work ethic and that type of want-to, that’s why he’s such a special player.’’