INDIANAPOLIS — With leading wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in and out of the lineup with injuries during Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts' pass-catching depth was put to the test.
On the team's opening drive, Hilton was tackled hard to the ground following a 40-yard catch and run. He would leave the game with what the team announced was a chest injury before returning later in the quarter.
During the drive Hilton was initially injured, second-year receiver Marcus Johnson made his first reception with the Colts, a 16-yarder on 3rd and 11 for a first down.
At the end of that same drive, the Colts advanced into the red zone and punctuated the possession with a four-yard touchdown from quarterback Andrew Luck to first-year wideout Zach Pascal — the first touchdown of the latter's career.
Although Hilton returned from his chest injury, a hamstring injury in the third quarter would knock him out of the game completely.
With the Colts having a quick turnaround this week, playing on Thursday instead of Sunday, Hilton's injuries cast doubt on his status for Indy's Week 5 matchup against the New England Patriots. After Sunday's game against the Texans, head coach Frank Reich classified Hilton's immediate status as "probably not good ... with the hamstring on a short week."
Throughout Sunday's game, Luck's pass catchers stepped up in Hilton's absence as he distributed a career-high 62 passes. They'll need that total team effort again Thursday if Hilton indeed cannot play.
Of the four players who caught passes from Luck on Sunday who are not not usual starters, they combined to catch 18-of-26 targets for 160 yards and three touchdowns.
Chester Rogers led all Colts receivers with a career-high 11 targets, hauling in eight of them for 85 yards and one of the most critical plays of the game — a two-point conversion with 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie it at 31 apiece.
Because of Rogers' two-point catch, the Colts were able to send the game to overtime after once trailing by 18 points more than halfway through the third quarter.
Also playing an increased role Sunday was rookie running back Nyheim Hines, who basically turned into a receiver with his nine receptions on 11 targets. In fact — likely because of his prowess as a pass-catcher and due to the Colts playing from behind — Hines played in 62 of the Colts' 90 offensive snaps, which was double any other Colts running back.
If the Colts are without Hilton in this week's matchup against the New England Patriots, then the "next man up" mantra will be of supreme importance.
"(I treat it) just like I treat every normal week. I'm not gonna take it too big," Pascal said to the media on Monday. "We'll see what the coaches decide. I'm just ready to step in whatever way I can to help the team win"
Ryan Grant, tight end Eric Ebron and Rogers will be counted on to lead the Colts' passing game in the event that their perennial Pro Bowl receiver cannot overcome his hamstring and chest injuries in time.
Regardless of who is available, the Colts are ready to move on from their recent loss and face the next challenge head on.
"Yeah man, it hurt. I'm not going to lie, it hurts," Rogers said following their heartbreaking loss to the Texans. "You know, these type of games bring tears to your eyes, but the fact of the matter is we got the Patriots on Thursday. So, like (Reich) said, go in there, take a shower, rinse it off you and (it's) on to the Patriots."