They walked out thinking the player who stands 5-foot-9, weighs 178 pounds and has lightning speed would be that player after he caught seven passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns in their come-from-behind victory.
But how things have changed for Hilton since then.
Opponents have taken away the best part of Hilton's game – his speed – by providing help to slow him down.
He’s got 17 receptions for 135 yards and zero touchdowns in the four games since facing the Rams. His seven yards receiving against Cincinnati last weekend was the lowest of his career when catching at least one pass.
“There’s a lot of frustration on a lot of faces around here,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “When you’re a competitor and you want to contribute and all those things, that’s what you expect. You want guys that want the ball and want to make a difference.”
Keying in on Hilton was easy for opponents to do because quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t have a second receiver to turn to. Darrius Heyward-Bey doesn’t need a defender to slow him down because he slows himself down with the inability to catch the ball, and LaVon Brazill got off to a slow start this season.
That’s why defenses have been able to use an extra defender on Hilton. There wasn’t any fear of anybody else beating them.
“Oh no, you can’t get frustrated,” Hilton said. “When it’s my time to make a play, I’ll make a play. But I’m seeing double teams. Sometimes they roll the coverage my way. It just means guys got to step up, which they did last game, so we’re moving in the right direction with that.”
There’s finally some hope that Hilton will have some help at receiver. Brazill and Da’Rick Rogers had the best games of their young careers against the Bengals. Rogers had six catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Brazill had three catches for 59 yards, two touchdowns and a run where he broke six tackles.
“It’s huge,” Luck said. “I think the wide receiver room is great. They realize it’s such a team effort, such a group effort for getting each other open. So when DHB [Heyward-Bey] and LaVon and Da’Rick and even the running backs and the tight ends, it helps a guy like T.Y. get going. We know T.Y. is a special, special playmaker. I think anybody who has watched the last couple seasons realizes that. So hopefully we can all get on the right track.”