WR T.Y. Hilton Calls Colts Connection with QB Philip Rivers ‘a Perfect Match’

Phillip B. Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS — It was only one big play, but Philip Rivers’ 47-yard TD pass to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in a Saturday scrimmage was longer than any reception the four-time Pro Bowl pass-catcher had last season.

That’s why the Colts signed Rivers for $25 million to play his 17th NFL season in Indianapolis. The 38-year-old passer, who has been to eight Pro Bowls, will take chances throwing the ball down the field. Some have questioned his arm strength and suggested he’s washed up after 20 interceptions last year.

That’s why Hilton is so important to this offense. The four-time Pro Bowl star is still one of the league’s speediest deep threats, who stretches defenses and prevents the opposition from crowding the box. He had the worst year of his career in 2019, missing six games with a calf injury. The Colts are 1-9 when Hilton has been sidelined in his career. Because he was also hurt in 2018, some suggest he’s no longer the player he once was.

Put them together — Rivers to Hilton — and it’s an arrangement that could be mutually beneficial for both. Rivers would like to play more than one season for the Colts before retiring to be a high school football coach in Alabama. Hilton is entering a contract year and says his new deal will be his last, and he would prefer to be “a Colt for life.”

Their ability to make a connection seems almost instantaneous.

“We had a couple throwing sessions where we felt out one another,” Hilton said of Rivers in a Tuesday Zoom video call. “Right now, we’re just working hand-in-hand. He likes throwing to soft spots and I like finding the soft spots.

“In reality, we’re kind of like a perfect match.”

The Indianapolis Colts are counting on 38-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers to lead the franchise to the playoffs, something that has happened only once in five years.
Quarterback Philip Rivers enjoys having T.Y. Hilton as a No. 1 wide receiver.Robert Scheer/USA TODAY Sports

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Rivers spoke after Saturday’s TD pass about how much he appreciates having Hilton as a receiver.

“The first thing I would say is what a great competitor he is,” the quarterback said. “That stood out to me very early on, getting to know him. I think all great players, they are great competitors. He certainly has that trait. Also, the best receivers I have been around, they have a great feel for the game, and T.Y. has that, whether it be throttling on a route or being ready for a back shoulder or a little bit of that unspoken communication that you have that we can kind of get on the same page. We’ve been able to have some of those type moments throughout training camp. That will only continue to grow.

“It was nice to push it down the field to him on the one today and kind of get into a little bit of a rhythm. Certainly as a passer, it’s a little bit like a jump shooter. As you get rolling – and we weren’t great today by any means, but there were certain drives where we got into a little bit of a rhythm. I kind of mentioned to him, ‘If we keep going like this, we’re going to be tough to stop.’”

Hilton is thinking the same thing.

“As long as he continues to do that,” the wide receiver said, “find the soft spots in the defense and he’s able to get it to me, get it into my hands and let me work, the sky is the limit for us.”

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton stretches before a recent practice at training camp.
T.Y. Hilton, 30, is entering a contract year and wants to be "a Colt for life."Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports

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(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is phillipbwilson24@yahoo.com.)

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