After Reggie Wayne tore his ACL last season at Houston it was widely assumed that
"We all know he's an explosive guy and a vertical guy and he can make the big plays, we've seen the big plays," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of Hilton at the NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando. "Did he have to do some of the other stuff because of the absence of Reggie? We had to be creative, we had to move him around, we couldn't sit him in one spot or play him in one spot. We had to do some things because we knew that they were going to roll the coverage to him, they were going to double him, put a guy up on his nose, disrupt him at the line of scrimmage and have a guy over the top, all those things. We had to do a bunch of different things just to try and get him loose, get him free."
The feeling now is that the arrival of Hakeem Nicks will put Hilton in a position where he'll see less double coverage and become a deep-ball threat, albeit exclusively. Nicks and Wayne should keep it tough on Hilton from getting close to the 138 targets he had last regular season.
"He's well on his way to being a guy in the conversation as one of the best to play [the position]," Pagano said.
Hilton exploded for 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns in leading an epic comeback in the playoff victory against Kansas City. He caught 28 passs for 483 yards in his last three games and finished the regular season with 1,083 yards receiving.
Just a week after the best performance of his career,
Hilton made an over-the-shoulder grab for a 46-yard gain, his longest reception of the night. He also battled a knee injury throughout the game and finished with four catches for 103 yards on six targets in a 43-22 defeat.
Hilton enjoyed his first career 1,000-yard season, as he caught 82 passes for 1,083 yards with five touchdowns while being targeted 138 times in his second year in the league.
Hilton, who set career-highs in yards and receptions in the final game of the regular season, topped both marks Saturday. He was unstoppable as the Colts fought their way back from a big deficit, hauling in 13 of 18 passes thrown his way for 224 yards and a pair of scores.
The latter of the touchdowns, a 64-yard bomb out of the slot with 4:29 left in the game, put the Colts into the second round of the playoffs. They will face either the Broncos or Patriots.
Hilton caught 11 of his 15 targets, picking up 155 receiving yards. He was the only offensive threat in the pass game for Indianapolis. Despite the big game, Hilton was unable to find the end zone. He finishes the season with five touchdowns.
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