Colts WR TY Hilton continues to play an integral role down the stretch.
Given that seemingly every team in the AFC playoff picture has refused to budge over the last month, the Indianapolis Colts really had no choice but to win their divisional clash vs Houston this past Sunday.
Since nothing ever comes easy in the NFL, the Colts — for the second time in three weeks — failed to put the game away early and fans were forced to sweat it out until literally the final minute of the fourth quarter.
While linebacker Darius Leonard’s forced fumble at the goal line with less than two minutes remaining was widely viewed as the game-winning play (understandably so), the spotlight it received really took away from TY Hilton’s monster catch on 2nd and 20 that set Indy up with goal-to-go just minutes earlier.
They would eventually capitalize on a Zach Pascal touchdown, but Colts fans just need to hear all the preparation that went into Hilton’s potentially season-saving 41-yard reception.
According to the Indy Star, Houston unknowingly played right into the Colts’ hand by dialing up a Tampa-2 zone, which they had prepared for tirelessly at practice leading up to the game.
To make a long story short, head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni discovered while dissecting film that the Texans tend to deploy this scheme when an opposing offense is faced with a 2nd-and-long, which is understandable when you consider that most teams are content with picking up chunk yards (instead of going for it all) to set themselves up with a reasonable third down situation.
"“I did feel like that pre-snap they were going to (Cover-2),” Rivers said after the win, “but when they started conversing, I was like, ‘Shoot, they aren’t going to let it happen,’ but they did.”"
For those wondering, by “it” Rivers was referring to letting a stocky linebacker, Tyrell Adams, line up opposite Hilton in the inside slot position. The 38-year-old quarterback was almost certain Houston would audible. When they didn’t, he noticed Hilton had his defender beat with no safety help over the top and hit him with a perfectly-placed pass that would’ve gone for a touchdown if not for a last-ditch tackle.
In normal circumstances, a Cover-2 scheme has a pair of safeties assigned to their specific side of the field. One of them could’ve easily drifted over the middle to help and potentially intercept Rivers’ deep ball, but the Colts made sure they didn’t by lining up tight end Mo Alie-Cox as a decoy.
A crisp route from Alie-Cox and a little deceiving eye play from Rivers later and Hilton found himself wide open up the middle of the field. A couple of ticks later and Indianapolis established a seven-point cushion with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
It’s intricate details like these that make football such a beautiful sport, especially when spending hours in the film room pays off. We’re obviously not trying to take anything away from Leonard’s heroics. All we ask is that the offense’s execution and coaching staff’s pinpoint preparation doesn’t fall by the wayside in the aftermath.