His 42-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter made it a one-score deficit.
And in the final minute, when the Colts needed a touchdown to snatch an ugly 25-24 victory over the Browns Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, Hilton delivered with a sliding, 1-yard scoring reception.
The Colts’ No. 1 receiver shook off a lousy first half as well as a lost fumble in the second half. Shadowed for much of the afternoon by Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, Hilton broke away with 10 catches for 150 yards.
“We’ve been on the road so many times that it doesn’t even matter to us anymore, but we still came back to win this game,” Hilton said in quotes provided by the Colts. “(QB) Andrew (Luck) does a great job keeping the guys fired up, keeping the guys going and once we’re out there, we have fun.”
The Colts (9-4) rallied from a 21-7 deficit in the third quarter after allowing a second defensive touchdown. They turned the ball over four times. They dropped passes. They couldn’t run the ball effectively. Luck completed less than half of his 53 passes as he was pressured on a third of his dropbacks.
But No. 13 still came through.
Hilton’s 42-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter trimmed the Browns’ lead to 21-16. The speedy receiver beat two defenders, including Haden, to dance into the end zone. Luck threw a perfect back-shoulder pass, Hilton looking back with tight coverage, snagging it, then cutting through the two tacklers.
“The touchdown to T.Y. really opened things up,” Luck admitted.
After Dan Herron converted an all-important fourth-and-1 rush to the Browns’ 1-yard line for a first down in the final minute, Luck threw a low, outside pass in a perfect spot for Hilton, who hung on going to the ground for the final score with 32 seconds remaining.
Hilton was lined up in the right slot with wide receiver Reggie Wayne outside. Hilton and Wayne ran to the same spot, which bunched both cornerbacks and enabled Hilton to speed outside for the diving catch.
Hilton said the Colts never panicked despite trailing the entire second half.
“We go through that situation so many times that it’s just easy for us,” he said. “Whether it’s the two-minute drill, a four-minute drill, we’ve been down that road so many times.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.