The Indianapolis Colts didn't stand a chance running the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday.
If they were going to rally from a 12-6 halftime deficit, backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was going to have to find some open receivers.
Hilton caught touchdown passes of 19 and 3 yards to finish with six catches for 95 yards. The second-year Moncrief finished with eight receptions for 114 yards — and each of his grabs gained a first down. The catch total was a career high.
At halftime, each target had just two catches for a combined 53 yards.
Their continual ability to get open and make clutch plays enabled the Colts to endure 25-12 on a day when they rushed for just 27 yards on 26 carries. It was the third-lowest rushing total in a win in franchise history.
Hasselbeck was advised on the sidelines by injured quarterback Andrew Luck as well as wide receiver Andre Johnson that receivers were open on seam routes. Coaches said the same thing when the team chatted about adjustments at halftime.
Hasselbeck passed along the plan to his guys.
“He told us to stay alive in the seams,” Hilton said. “We stayed alive. He was able to give us the ball, and we just made plays.”
Moncrief has emerged so much in his season season, he’s passed Hilton for the team lead in receptions. The former third-round pick out of Mississippi has 52 catches for 584 yards. Hilton, a fourth-year pro coming off his first Pro Bowl season, is still the bona fide deep threat with 51 receptions for 819 yards. Both have five touchdown catches. Hilton enjoyed the sixth multi-touchdown game of his career.
“It’s just the timing,” Moncrief said of playing with Hasselbeck instead of Luck. “We do a lot of timing stuff during the week. I feel like our timing hasn’t gotten great, but it’s getting there. You can tell where we’re going with him. He’s comfortable and he’s making those throws.”
Hasselbeck hit Moncrief to convert four third downs. The Colts’ final touchdown drive that iced the game in the fourth quarter lasted required 15 plays to cover 76 yards in 7 minutes and 30 seconds. Moncrief had four receptions for 50 yards in that possession to finish with his fourth career 100-yard receiving game.
The Colts (6-5) are riding a three-game winning streak. They’re tied atop the AFC South Division with the Houston Texans.
Hilton was asked why the offense is clicking with Hasselbeck, a 40-year-old backup who improved to 4-0 as Luck’s super sub this season.
“Just going out there, having fun and just playing the game,” Hilton said. “Matt is doing a great job of getting the ball out quick, not taking a lot of hits and just getting guys the ball in space and letting us make plays.”
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