INDIANAPOLIS — T.Y. Hilton's dominance against the Houston Texans is a storyline heading into every matchup, but he might just have some company after fellow wide receiver Zach Pascal put in yet another strong outing against the Indianapolis Colts' AFC South Division rival on Sunday.
Pascal had the biggest performance of his career in the Colts’ 30-23 win over the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium, catching 6-of-7 targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns, and nearly throwing another. His standout performance was a big reason why the Colts (4-2) now sit atop the AFC South standings.
"I don't know,” Pascal said with a laugh after the game when asked what it is about his and Hilton’s ability to make plays against Houston. “Today was just a day where we all came out and executed, from Chester Rogers to T.Y. Hilton to Zach Pascal to Deon Cain to Ashton Dulin. We all just came out here to have fun. That's all it was."
As a do-it-all player for the Colts, Pascal set new single-game career highs in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, all-purpose yards (172), kickoff returns (three), kickoff return yards (66), and he tied his single-game best for receptions.
"They was playing a lot of man,” Pascal said. “They was pressing up on the receivers and trying to stop the run, so we just tried to take advantage of all the man that we got, and fortunately we did."
Just how well were things going for Pascal on Sunday? He was also credited with his first career forced safety when Houston’s punt team took the ball out of the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
Often seen casually between plays in practice, Pascal even got an opportunity to show off his passing ability in this game as the Colts dialed up what they refer to as the “Jackie Moon" play, referencing Will Ferrell’s character in the 2008 movie Semi-Pro.
Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a quick pass back to Pascal down the left flat, who then adjusted and let fly a beautiful pass down the right side of the field to a wide-open Nyheim Hines. The only issue was that Pascal overcompensated for how they play looked this week in practice and threw it too far out of Hines’ reach.
"All week I underthrew him, and today he was wide open, so I'm like, 'OK, let me just put some air under it and let him run under,'” Pascal said. “That play hurt. It hurt me, but hopefully we'll get it called (again) and make it happen."
After the game, Colts head coach Frank Reich very lightheartedly reflected on the missed opportunity.
"The Jackie Moon play! We've had that thing up three or four times this year, and we're like, 'This is the week, this is the week we're gonna hit The Jackie Moon.' I wish you could've heard us on the sideline — all the coaches — 'It's Jackie Moon! We're gonna get us some Jackie Moon,' Reich said. “And Zach actually has a great arm and is a really good passer. Obviously just overthrew him a little bit, but it was nice."
Known as a dependable role player in his first season with the Colts in 2018, Pascal had his two most productive games against the Texans in the regular season, combining for 11 receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including this ankle-breaker:
This time around, Pascal’s role has developed and become even more critical. While injuries and other circumstances have developed around the Colts’ offense, Pascal has remained a constant, doing all the little things right and being someone the team feels it can put in just about any situation.
Through six games — four of which he has started — Pascal has accrued 13 receptions (19 targets) for 239 yards (18.4 avg.) and three touchdowns en route to what is shaping up to be a career year for him.
"I wish I could say that we were surprised,” Reich said of Pascal after Sunday's game. “This goes back to last year, he kinda won us over really quick, and he won the quarterbacks over with his toughness and big-play ability. So, he's got deceiving speed, and he's got a really got knack of separating at the top of the route, so if you're playing man coverage, he can make big plays, and he did that today."
The toughness and big-play ability is certainly something not lost on Pascal’s quarterback, Brissett, who has seen Pascal's hard work behind the scenes pay off on Sundays.
"Just his passion for the game. Zach's that guy that's gonna do all the dirty work,” Brissett said. “He just works so hard. He prepares, and in practice, he does what he does out there on the field consistently, and as a quarterback that's what you ask for. And when those guys do those things that he does in the run game, you have to reward him, with how precious it is for him. What was it, a career day for Zach? So, he did a great job and has gotta keep it going."