INDIANAPOLIS — There was no way T.Y. Hilton was going to sit this one out.
The Indianapolis Colts’ top wide receiver, who sat out the entire week of practice as worked his way through an ankle injury, is officially active for today’s crucial Week 15 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
Also active for Indy is center Ryan Kelly, who had missed the last three games with a knee injury.
Those who are inactive for the Colts today: center Josh Andrews, wide receiver Daurice Fountain, guard Mark Glowinski, safety Mike Mitchell, linebacker Skai Moore, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and running back Jonathan Williams. Third-year veteran Joe Haeg is expected to get the start at right guard in place of Glowinski.
Hilton suffered the injury during last Sunday’s big road victory over the Houston Texans, a game in which the seventh-year receiver dominated, catching nine passes for a season-high 199 yards and passing Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (11) for the most 150-yard receiving games in franchise history.
Hilton’s performance was also a key piece to snapping the Texans’ then-NFL-best nine-game winning streak.
He had battled through various injuries and missed practices only to ultimately play in that week’s game at other points this season, but his time around, Hilton wasn’t even able to practice at a limited capacity even once as the team prepared for the Cowboys, who feature one of the top secondaries in the league.
Hilton was truly a gametime decision according to head coach Frank Reich, who told reporters Friday that in most cases, missing practice on Friday usually means a player wouldn’t be able (or available to) play two days later.
“I mean, it is always case-by-case. Generally speaking, not practicing Friday would not be good, but it is later in the year,” Reich said of Hilton. “This is still up in the air. I mean it still is touch and go. We just got to see how he responds in the next 24 hours. We are just hoping for the best.”
The Colts (7-6) now officially have their top passing weapon ready to go as they continue battling down the stretch for a playoff spot.
Nothing will come easy today, however, as the NFC East Division-leading Cowboys (8-5) come into Lucas Oil Stadium riding an NFL-best five-game win streak. Dallas’ defense ranks fourth in the league in total yards (313.4) and points (18.9) allowed per game; they rank ninth, meanwhile, in passing yards allowed per game (226.5).
“We have a lot of respect for Dallas,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “What they do on the defensive side of the football presents a big challenge. They have a really strong defensive line. They have a great core of linebackers – guys who can cover and guys who can run. But I think we are also keeping the focus on ourselves and what we are doing and not getting too caught up in our opponent or if they’re on a hot streak or not on a hot streak.
“We know how this league is,” Luck continued. “Every team is really, really good and you better bring your ‘A’ game or you’re going to get embarrassed.”
Alie-Cox, Inman, Kelly active
The Colts’ offense will also see the return of three key pieces today against Dallas.
Tight end Mo Alie-Cox, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and Kelly are also officially active.
» Alie-Cox suffered a calf injury in practice in the week leading up to the Week 12 matchup against the Miami Dolphins and has missed the team’s last three games. The first-year tight end had really been taking off in recent weeks, catching his first two-career touchdowns Weeks 8 and 10. On the season, Alie-Cox — a college basketball player at VCU who prior to last year hadn’t played organized football since his freshman year in high school — has six receptions for 112 yards and two scores.
» Inman did not practice two weeks ago with a shoulder injury, and missed his first game of the season last Sunday in the Colts’ Week 14 victory over the Houston Texans. Signed by the Colts as a free agent on Oct. 16, the fifth-year veteran has been an instant contributor since arriving midseason, catching 19 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown.
» Kelly returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in the fourth quarter of the Colts’ Week 11 victory over the Tennessee Titans — a span of 17 days. Prior to suffering the injury, Kelly was leading a Colts offense line that had become the best unit in football; it went five games straight without allowing a sack, and had, at one point, racked up back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances.
The Colts are hoping the return of Alie-Cox and Kelly, particularly, can provide a boost in the run game, which has struggled at times without them the last three games. After averaging 150.4 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry in Weeks 6-8 and 10-11, the Colts averaged just 69.7 rushing yards and 3.1 yards per carry in Weeks 12-14 — and just 45.5 yards and 2.4 yards per carry the previous two games.