INDIANAPOLIS – During Sunday night’s shootout between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni got a text from quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had just made an incredible throw under pressure that resulted in an outstanding touchdown catch by running back Jamaal Williams.
“Did you see that throw?” Brissett typed. “That was unbelievable.”
“I saw an even more unbelievable throw about five hours earlier,” Sirianni responded.
The 26-year-old quarterback remains the person least impressed by his escape from Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and subsequent 35-yard completion to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on Sunday.
It jump-started the game-wining drive in an ugly 15-13 decision against the Broncos and remains a popular topic of conversation within and around the Colts.
But for all the justifiable praise being heaped in Brissett’s direction, Hilton is sometimes left behind.
The four-time Pro Bowler had a tough assignment with Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. shadowing him throughout the game. The Broncos also often rolled a safety to Hilton’s side of the field and prevented him from getting free over the top of the defense.
Brissett struggled to connect with him. The 35-yard gain was the longest pass play of the day, but it also marked just Hilton’s second reception in six targets.
He earned it, and he made it count.
After Brissett broke free of Miller’s grasp, the play became a scramble drill. And Sirianni isn’t certain there’s anybody better in that situation than Hilton.
“He’s really good,” the offensive coordinator said. “We talk so much about route detail, how to run routes and where to be on certain routes, but once it turns into like, I guess, playground (football) – like what would happen when you would go out there with your friends on the playground.
“I can only imagine what he was like when he was 8 years old on the playground. When it was like, ‘OK, T.Y., just get open and I’ll find you.’ T.Y. has got a great feel for that. So I would’ve liked to be on his team back then in elementary school. I’m happy I am on his team now.”
Hilton was the first read on the play, but he was supposed to be running a post route. Harris, as he had throughout the game, cut the route off and forced the wide receiver to improvise.
When he heard the crowd roaring after Brissett’s escape, Hilton correctly guessed the quarterback had escaped the pocket. Then it was a matter of turning back and making himself available to catch the pass.
Brissett threw a laser to the sideline, and Hilton deftly got both feet in to complete the play.
“Obviously, T.Y. Hilton made a phenomenal play, too,” Sirianni said. “It was just a great play by two great players.”
PRAISE FOR MACK
The raw numbers were not overly impressive for Marlon Mack against the Denver defensive front. He carried the ball 19 times for 76 yards and scored the Colts’ lone touchdown on a 10-yard run late in the third quarter.
But Mack’s performance was greater than the stats suggest.
“He saw a couple opportunities where maybe he was up on a secondary guy and he’d make them miss or there wasn’t anything there and he’d just pile it up in there and make it a productive run,” Sirianni said. “I thought Marlon played a really good game. I thought he played a really good game, and sometimes the guys were doing a good job blocking for him up front. Sometimes it was he was making some things happen on his own, and I think that’s a sign of a good running back.
“He gets the yards that are there that the offensive line makes available to him, and then he gets extra ones. It’s almost what we’ve come to expect out of Marlon because he is a good back. He just continues to impress us, and obviously Sunday was no exception to that.”
ROOKIE ROLLER COASTER
The defensive secondary was full of storylines Sunday.
Top outside cornerback Pierre Desir missed the game with a nagging hamstring injury, and versatile reserve Quincy Wilson was a surprise member of the inactive list.
That put even more of a spotlight on rookie cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who was flagged five times for defensive holding and pass interference during a miserable performance against top Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton.
The other rookie cornerback playing Sunday, Marvell Tell, was overlooked in the chaos. Playing the most snaps of his seven-game NFL career, Tell mostly made a good impression.
Now he needs to show some consistency.
“He’s a young man, and I say that because his practice habits are up and down right now, and he knows that,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “He’s working on his practice habits. He’s very talented. He works, but his work patterns need to be steady in that way. He’s going to get better. Now, what he showed in the game was some really good stuff. He did a nice job.
“I thought he tackled well. There are a few things in there – he wishes he had back a couple plays. I thought he covered well. He’s a work in progress, like a lot of our young guys are. He’ll play how he practices. He’s just got to keep practicing really, really well.”