INDIANAPOLIS —"I guarantee I'll make plays Sunday."
With those six words on Wednesday, T.Y. Hilton put an awful lot of pressure on himself after a couple disappointing individual performances to start the season.
But come Sunday night, as he took a slant pass 63 yards to the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the Indianapolis Colts' 26-22 victory over the San Diego Chargers, Hilton certainly looked like the two-time Pro Bowler and No. 1 receiver fans have come to love over the years.
His guarantee wasn't quite Broadway Joe-worthy, but the Colts needed every bit of an inspired Hilton on Sunday.
"They look for me to make big plays, and I wasn't doing that the first two games, and I told them, 'I'm going to be the difference-maker today,'" Hilton said after the game. "I said earlier in the week, 'I want to put it on me, put the game on me,' and that's what I did today."
Hilton's first two games produced just 10 total catches for 120 yards and no scores. Worst yet, the Colts lost both weeks to the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos, when they really could've used an extra spark or two from one of their top offensive threats throughout the game to get over the hump.
Instead, Indianapolis found itself at 0-2 and facing an early-season must-win on Sunday against the Chargers, who had shown a propensity for starting fast the first two weeks of the season.
The team on Sunday was also without No. 2 receiver Donte Moncrief, who suffered a fractured shoulder blade against the Broncos that is expected to sideline him for four to six weeks, putting even more pressure on the rest of the playmakers.
So quarterback Andrew Luck knew getting the ball in Hilton's hands should be a top priority against the Chargers. He did just that, targeting Hilton 11 times on the afternoon.
In all, the fifth-year Florida International product would catch eight of those passes for 174 yards — an average of 21.8 yards per catch — and that aforementioned game-winning touchdown grab.
Photos from the week 3 contest between Indianapolis and San Diego.
"That's how he's been since we've played together since our rookie year," Luck said of Hilton stepping up for his team as promised against the Chargers. "That's one of the big reasons why he's one of the great receivers in this league."
Hilton's part-Pro-Bowler, part-prophet ways weren't lost on his teammates on Sunday.
Safety Mike Adams said Hilton was verbal all week in practice, telling him he'd come through against the Chargers.
"He put up — he definitely put up," Adams said. "All week he was talking, 'Pops, watch — watch: I'm going to get a buck (100 receiving yards) on them. I'm getting a buck. They shut me down last week; that's not going to happen again.' And he showed out."
Another key defensive veteran, Robert Mathis, said he enjoyed watching Hilton's show from the sidelines on Sunday.
"When he comes through, I respect it and I love it," Mathis said with a laugh.
Hilton definitely came through — more than once — on the Colts' game winning drive.
At the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Colts, down 22-20, faced a 4th and 7 from their own 20-yard line. Luck found Hilton on a quick slant play for eight yards, just getting enough for the first down to extend the drive. The officials reviewed the spot for good measure.
After a nine-yard pass from Luck to Josh Ferguson, Hilton told Luck to come his way with the slant one more time. He was feeling it.
"I caught it and I told Andrew, 'Just give me one of those balls, and I'll go score,'" Hilton said of the fourth-down conversion two plays earlier. "And that's what he did on the second one. But all hats (off) to him. You know, he gave me a good ball, and I just made a play."
Hilton did more than "make a play." He turned into part Captain America, part Iron Man, the two super heroes depicted on the backpack he wore on Sunday to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Hilton, lined up on the right side of the field, caught the quick slant around the Indianapolis 46-yard line, spun out of a tackle attempt by San Diego safety Dexter McCoil, juked safety Adrian Phillips out of his cleats around the Chargers' 35-yard line, and was off to the races from there.
"Once I caught it, I saw a safety and he didn't think I saw him, so he tried to hit me and I just spun off and did the rest," Hilton said of the play.
"He's a beast," Colts running back Frank Gore said of Hilton. "One of the best at his position. Him and Luck, playing together since they've came in, they got that chemistry. I'm just happy that we got the win and he made that big play."
The key for Hilton and the Colts' offense now is to put together a second straight week of big plays. The unit looked extremely sharp for the entire second half of the Lions game, but often fell flat the next week on the road against Denver.
Indianapolis opens divisional play next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, and going into the game with a win and a 1-2 record certainly leaves a much better taste in the team's mouth than 0-3 and all the gloom and doom that goes with it.
"We needed one — that was the motto coming in," Hilton said of Sunday's game. "Just get one, and then the ball would get going. For ourselves, it was a huge win."