Such is the nature of the hype surrounding the Seattle Seahawks secondary that in the team’s pregame notes, there actually is an entry listing the wingspans of each of the starters.
As T.Y. Hilton demonstrated Sunday, it doesn’t really matter unless you can fly.
The diminutive wide receiver stood tallest of them all, catching two touchdown passes in the best game of his young career, almost single-handedly bringing the NFL’s most respected pass-coverage unit to its knees. Hilton’s 73-yard score in the first quarter was the longest of his career, as was his yardage total of 140. Mix in 55 yards of pass interference penalties against Seattle defenders unable to keep up with Hilton, and that total impact grows to 195 yards.
Of course, someone had to throw him the ball, and Andrew Luck did his usual precise job of that, directing the ninth fourth-quarter comeback victory of his career as the Colts improved to 4-1 to stand alone atop the AFC South while handing Seattle its first loss in five games.
Order up another case, Jimmy.
Begin with Hilton, of course. Luck shook off another slow start to finish with 229 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Trent Richardson rushed for 54 yards in the second half, including a huge 10-yard gain on third down to keep the final scoring drive alive. Reggie Wayne caught six passes against the vaunted Seahawks.
Jerrell Freeman had a huge game defensively with 13 tackles and the biggest hit, a smackdown of Russell Wilson after he released his final errant pass of the game. Robert Mathis had two more sacks, including the 100th of his career. And special teams gets some love, too, as Lawrence “Not Just Some” Guy blocked a field goal attempt that Delano Howell turned into a 61-yard touchdown return, but only after shaking off the embarrassment of being outrun by the opposing kicker.
>> “We knew this was going to be a heavyweight fight, 15 rounds, we knew they were going to make plays, we knew we were going to make some plays … our guys just hung in.’” – Chuck Pagano
>> “Nobody’s built better to win these close games, especially down the stretch, than this team.” – Pagano
>> “He just wills this team to victory. He’s unbelievable. Doesn’t matter what the score is, what the situation is, the guy just finds a way to make plays.” – Pagano on Luck
>> “We know how explosive T.Y. is, it was just a matter of us getting him the football and putting him position to make those plays. He’s an electrifying guy.” – Pagano
>> “Just the way they did it epitomizes everything we’re trying to do.” — Pagano
>> “At the end of the day a win is a win, if it was ugly, if it was great, a 2-minute comeback, if you hold on for dear life. … Maybe there’s something special about the close ones but a win’s a win.” — Luck
>> “When you have Reggie Wayne and T.Y. and DHB, they’ll get open eventually. You can’t cover those guys for 60 minutes. They just kept working and working and once you get a little bit of rhythm, it always helps.” — Luck
>> “I don’t think it’s in the DNA of a Pagano-coached team to hang your head or to get too high when you’re doing something well. Coach is very methodical and has that great energy that you’re always playing hard regardless of the circumstances.” – Luck
>> “It sure felt like a lot more than 12 points.” – Luck on the early deficit
>> “All I can tell you is it feels good to be a Colt.” – Richardson
>> “Yeah, there’s a bunch of calls that you’re going to want to look at and wonder what happened here and what happened there and that usually happens, but when you lose they’re magnified, unfortunately. There were a number of them that were questioned unfortunately.” – Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll
>> “I’m sure he’s not as happy as he would be if he played better.” – Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman on Luck
STATS OF THE GAME
This game was very much a tale of two halves.
Luck again heated up in the second, completing 11 of 16 for 132 yards and a touchdown as the Colts racked up 200 of their 317 total yards and converted 5-of-6 third downs in the third and fourth quarters.
In the past two games, Luck is 19 of 25 (.760) for 272 yards, three touchdowns and a 119.5 rating in the second half. Of course, he’s 19 of 40 (.475) with an interception, one score and a 65.7 rating in the first.
Seattle’s key players, on the other hand, went the other way. Wilson was just 6 of 15 with an interception for 82 yards, while Marshawn Lynch totaled 26 rushing yards on six attempts after intermission.
TURNING POINTThe flow of the game changed completely in a span of seven minutes late in the first and early in the second quarter.
While the Seahawks moved effortlessly in jumping out to a 10-0 lead, the Colts offense produced nothing but three-and-outs, and the third was disastrous as Pat McAfee’s punt was blocked into the end zone. It appeared Seattle’s Jeron Johnson dived on the ball before sliding beyond the end line but officials ruled it a safety. Instead of a 17-0 deficit, it was 12-0, with Seattle getting the ball back on a free kick.
After the defense came up with a much-needed stop, Luck found Hilton streaking down the right sideline and lofted a perfectly timed pass. Hilton, wide open behind Sherman, stutter-stepped safety Earl Thomas while staying inbounds and sprinted into the end zone. The Colts had totaled 15 yards on their first 12 offensive plays, but that one electrifying bomb jolted them awake.
Guy blocked Hauschka’s 48-yard field goal attempt to end Seattle’s next possession, with Howell needing help from downfield blockers to avoid the embarrassment of being run down by the kicker before scoring to put the Colts on top, 14-12.
>> Seattle tried to seize the momentum early in the third quarter but the defense came up with key third-down stops to limit the visitors to a pair of field goals that left the Colts facing a 25-17 deficit. A 29-yard pass from Luck to Hilton cut it to two and after yet another field goal, the Colts put together a 14-play, 86-yard drive to take the lead on Donald Brown’s 3-yard run.
>> That drive was kept alive by a successful challenge. On third-and-four, Luck completed a sideline pass to Wayne that officials originally ruled short of a first down. Pagano’s challenge of the spot was supported and instead of settling for a field goal, the Colts moved in front two plays later.
>> The defense limited Seattle to 2-of-12 on third down, while the Colts were 7-of-12, including 5-of-6 in the second half.
>> The 4-1 record marks the team’s best start since 2009.
>> For the fourth consecutive game, the Colts held their opponent scoreless in the fourth quarter. The defense leads the NFL with just seven points allowed in the final period.
>> Luck’s 73-yard TD pass to Hilton in the first quarter was a career long for both the quarterback and the receiver. It was the longest allowed by Seattle since Week 16 of the 2007 season.
>> Howell’s TD return with the blocked field goal was the first since Dec. 5, 2005, when Rob Morris did the trick.
>> With 65 yards, Wayne passed Torry Holt (13,382) for 11th place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list and is four receptions away from 1,000 for his career.
>> Mathis produced two sacks without putting anyone on the ground. The first sack came when he stripped Wilson of the ball, the second when he was the closest defender to the Seattle QB when he ran out of bounds. He already has 9.5 this season.
The Colts entered the game with four starters inactive due to injuries: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), S LaRon Landry (ankle), RB Stanley Havili (ankle) and DT Rick Jean Francois (groin), and reported no new injuries during the game.
Landry and Francois both are expected to return to practice this week.
An old nemesis awaits. The Colts travel to San Diego for a Monday Night Football matchup with the Chargers, who’ve won five of the last six meetings, including two in the playoffs.
San Diego dropped to 2-3 with a 27-17 loss to the Raiders Sunday night. Philip Rivers was 36 of 49 for 411 yards and two scores, but also threw three interceptions as the Chargers turned it over five times. Running back Ryan Mathews left the game in the second quarter with a concussion as the Chargers rushed for just 32 yards.