Colts’ T.Y. Hilton: ‘Give Superman his cape and let him work’

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 24: T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Whatever you think of T.Y. Hilton, he’s true to his word.

It was early in the week and the three-time Pro Bowl receiver who’s small in stature but capable of big things considered the prospects of the Indianapolis Colts opening the season 0-3 for the first time since he was a junior at Florida International. That would be 2011.

“Can’t happen,’’ Hilton said. “Won’t happen.’’

Didn’t happen.

The Colts sidestepped 0-3 and all of the negative issues that would have accompanied it – they’ve never reached the playoffs after such a start – by building a 21-point second-quarter lead and holding off the Cleveland Browns 31-28 Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Credit an ultra-aggressive 16-minute, four-possession stretch that spanned the first two quarters, generated four touchdowns and injected life into the crowd.

And, yes, credit Hilton.

“As long as he gets opportunities, T.Y.’s going to make plays,’’ running back Frank Gore said. “He’s a ballplayer.’’

Hilton finished with seven catches for 153 yards and a dazzling 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown. That after enduring a very quiet first two games while adjusting to life without Andrew Luck:  seven catches, 106 yards, little impact.

“Just give Superman his cape and let him work,’’ Hilton said of his big day. “That’s what I was doing today.’’

When he wasn’t torturing the Browns with crossing routes and massive yards after the catch, Hilton was exhorting his teammates on the sideline.

“I’m a leader, man, and at the end of the day when I speak, they listen,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, I was just trying to make plays.

“For us to have success, I have to make plays. If I don’t, we struggle. I came out there with the mindset I’m going to put the team on my back and just play.’’

Unlike last week against Arizona when the offense scored on its first two possessions, the start against Cleveland was faulty: a pair of three-and-outs.

Then, the offense got its act together as quarterback Jacoby Brissett made liberal use of his big-play receiver.

Brissett capped a 10-play, 90-yard drive with a 5-yard TD run, but the catalysts were 20- and 31-yard completions to Hilton.

Brissett went 2-for-2, displaying a nifty backfield pirouette to avoid Browns defensive lineman Danny Sheldon and getting loose for a 7-yard TD, but the Colts were in position because of 25- and 8-yard hookups with Hilton.

The third consecutive touchdown was all Hilton. He ran a left-to-right corner route, snared Brissett’s pass, abruptly reversed his field near the sideline and weaved through the Cleveland secondary untouched.

“Caught the ball and I wasn’t going down. Somebody was going to have to tackle me,’’ he said. “I just kept going. Once I saw the safety come down flat-footed, it was off to the races.

“(It was) a track meet for me and not too many people are going to catch me.’’

By halftime, Hilton had five catches for 145 yards and the TD. It represented the third-highest first-half yardage total in team history.

“Yeah, we got him going early and often,’’ Chuck Pagano said of Hilton. “There was going to be a sound defense that we were facing. There were going to be some chances and some opportunities.

“We just have to make good on them and he did that. He made big plays for us today.’’

That’s Hilton’s history.

He’s gotten loose for 31 regular-season receiving touchdowns and seven – 22.6 percent – have covered at least 61 yards. His average TD catch: 34 yards.

The 153 yards pushed Hilton’s career total to 6,210 and past Lenny Moore (6,039) into fourth place in team history.

The breakout afternoon was a direct byproduct of Brissett getting more comfortable with the playbook and his receivers.

“He’s doing a great job coming in and getting the playbook down, which allows us to open up the offense even more,’’ Hilton said.

In last Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, the Colts managed only one play of at least 20 yards. Against the Browns, they generated seven: a 21-yard run by Gore and six Brissett completions. Four of those six big plays in the passing game went to Hilton.

“That defense is pretty good,’’ Hilton said. “You’re not really going to be able to run the ball and you’re not going to hit many shots.

“When you get ‘em, there should be a big gain.’’

Listen to the man.

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