Colts; T.Y. Hilton: Expect unexpected vs. Patriots

Indianapolis Colts
T.Y. Hilton

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) lines up on the outside during an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

INDIANAPOLIS – T.Y. Hilton knows the score.

“I’m 0-fer against them,’’ he said.

There’s a lot of that going around.

As the Indianapolis Colts come out of their bye week and resume pursuit of a playoff berth Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the New England Patriots stand in the way.

The Colts have lost their last eight meetings with the Patriots, and Hilton has been part of five.

“If you need any motivation, 13’s gonna give you that motivation,’’ he said.

Hilton’s overriding motivation involves doing whatever it takes to ensure the Colts’ playoff push continues. They’ve nudged their record to 7-6 by winning six of their last eight, and enter the weekend as the AFC’s No. 6 seed.

The Patriots are 9-4, have won a league-best seven straight and are the conference’s No. 1 seed.

“They’re fundamentally sound. They’re great in their scheme,’’ Hilton said. “They do everything their coach asks them to do and they’ve got playmakers.’’

And as Hilton mentioned, the Patriots still have coach Bill Belichick.

Frank Reich called him “the best ever.’’

“It’s a great challenge to go up against a defense that is coached by him,’’ he said.

The primary challenge is adapting as the game unfolds to however Belichick decides to attack the offense. He’s a master at taking away the opposition’s strength.

New England’s defense ranks 3rd in fewest total yards (310.0) and passing yards (195.5) allowed, and is 1st in scoring (15.4). It’s allowed only two quarterbacks to pass for more than 269 yards, two backs to crack the 100-yard mark and two receivers to finish with 100-yard games.

Saturday evening, Belichick’s focus undoubtedly will be on Jonathan Taylor, who leads the NFL is rushing (1,348), total yards from scrimmage (1,684), rushing touchdowns (16) and total TDs (18).

He also figures to pay special attention to Michael Pittman Jr., who leads the Colts with 67 receptions, 882 yards and five TDs. Zach Pascal is the second-most productive wideout with 35 catches, 346 yards and three TDs.

“Expect the unexpected,’’ Hilton said. “The thing with (Belichick) is whatever you do well, he’s gonna take it away. So if you’re right-handed, you better learn to shoot with your left half. If you’re left-handed, you better learn to shoot with your right hand.”

“That’s just how he is. We’ve just got to be ready for anything and everything when it comes to that defense.’’

Hilton said he’s been the focus of double teams in each of his five appearances against New England.

“Correct,’’ he said. “All of ‘em. Anytime you’re not able to be a factor, it sucks. But it’s part of their game plan. Take me out of the game and live with the rest.”

“It’s going to be very different. Don’t know what their plan is, but we’ll figure it out and go from there.’’

Hilton hasn’t exactly been a non-factor in the five games. He’s amassed 20 catches, 337 yards and three TDs on 37 targets.

But he’s experienced both extremes. He’s had two 100-yard games, including 103 yards on four catches in the 2013 playoffs, but also was limited to one catch for 36 yards on six targets when New England routed the Colts 45-7 in the 2014 AFC Championship game.

Hilton’s one-catch outing in the conference title game came after one of the best seasons of his career: 82 receptions, 1,345 yards, seven TDs. He also had six catches for 103 yards in the Colts’ first-round playoff win over Cincinnati.

If Belichick focuses his defense on Taylor and Pittman, that might open things up for Hilton. He’s had just 15 catches, 177 yards and one TD in six games.

Hilton’s attention, though, is on the Colts taking another step toward the postseason.

“For me, man, it’s another game, but it’s a big game at the same time,’’ he said. “They’re No. 1 in the AFC and if we want that spot we’ve got to go out there and show ‘em we can play with whoever it is.”

“They’re a great team. We’re a great team. This is our first test.’’

Injury update

Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (calf) is the only player ruled out of the game.

Center Ryan Kelly missed Thursday’s practice for personal reasons, but is expected to return to the lineup against New England. He missed the week 13 win at Houston after being placed on the COVID-19 list.

Also, linebacker Bobby Okereke returned to practice after missing the previous two days with an illness.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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