There’s just something about NRG Stadium that takes Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton’s game to a higher level.
While several of his best career performances have come in Houston — including his biggest game of 2020 on Sunday — Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor had the most productive day of his young career as well at the Texans’ home in Week 13.
Could his name be added next to Hilton’s on the deed of the house as well?
In a vintage performance by “The Ghost,” Hilton dominated the first half of the Colts’ matchup with the Texans while Taylor took over in the second in a 26-20 road triumph over their AFC South Division rivals.
During an uncharacteristically slow season, Hilton built momentum last week by scoring his first touchdown of the season. He then fully hit his stride in Houston with single-game season highs of eight receptions for 110 yards (13.8 avg.) and his second TD in as many weeks.
In nine previous visits to Houston, Hilton averaged 115.1 yards with seven TDs. He became the Colts’ all-time receiving leader against the Texans in surpassing Reggie Wayne (1,636).
"Obviously a great day by T.Y.,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “Getting him going, and he did what T.Y. does here at this stadium. Against this team, he really provided us a spark and got us going. We needed all those points that we scored in the first half, obviously.”
Hilton had seven catches for 100 yards (14.3 avg.) and 21-yard scoring reception in the first half. He snapped a streak of 23 consecutive games (including playoffs) for Hilton without a 100-yard receiving performance. Seven of his eight catches resulted in either a first down or touchdown, including snags of 16, 18 and two 21-yarders.
“The objective was to just try and get me going, and no better place to do it than here,” Hilton said. “It got me going, got me flowing and just opened up a lot for the offense. (I’ve) just got to continue that, continue to make plays, continue to get us going, and we'll be fine.”
Later in the second half while maintaining a 24-20 lead, the Colts turned more toward the run, and that’s when Taylor took over.
He had just three carries in the first half, in which he gained 21 yards, as well as 39 receiving yards on two catches, including his fifth TD of the season and first on a reception. In the second half, Taylor turned it on with 10 carries for 70 rushing yards as well as one catch for five yards.
"He hit some runs and looked good, and the rotation went his way,” Reich said. “‘Rath’ (running backs coach Tom Rathman) kept him in there and he made the most of those opportunities. I thought he ran hard and looked good.
“(I’m) still disappointed in (not) getting the run game going in the first half, but excited about what we did in the second half as far as the run game was concerned.”
The rookie finished with 13 carries for 91 yards (7 avg.) as well as three catches for 44 yards (14.7 avg.) and a score for a single-game, career-high of 135 yards from scrimmage.
"One of the biggest things was understanding we got a lot of guys in our running back room that can make plays, whether it's through the air or on the ground, pass protection, it doesn't matter,” Taylor said. “My biggest thing was whenever my number was called, I had to make sure that I was executing. I know the team is counting on me, and the other guys in the running back room are counting on me to execute my job at a high level when my number is called.”
It was a long time coming for Taylor, whose play on the field is now screaming to be utilized more often.
He wasn’t gifted this performance by being granted 25 touches. Rather, he ran with speed and power, picking up several chunk plays and averaging more than eight yards when he touched the ball.
“I think one of the biggest things is understanding it's really all a mental aspect of whenever your number is called, you have a specific key, you have a specific assignment on that play,” Taylor said. “All you’ve got to do is focus on that. You don't have to worry about trying to get multiple carries or multiple plays in a row to get in a rhythm. It's really all about how effective you are on your play when your number is called at your job.”
Like Hilton, Taylor built serious momentum against the Texans after a solid performance the week before.
With the critical assistance from both, the Colts reclaimed a share of the lead in the AFC South, although the Titans hold the division-record tiebreaker.
Perhaps Hilton and Taylor can lead the Colts even farther in the final four regular-season games.
Looking for a podcast? Check out the Bleav in Colts Podcast on the Bleav Podcast Network.