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How the Ghost Disappeared During the Clash with the Titans

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

A question that is frequently asked after the end of the Monday night meltdown in Tennessee has been “Where was T.Y. Hilton?”

I had the same question, and that’s why I decided to take a look at the tape.

Here’s what stood out to me:

(Slot to the left of Moncrief on left side)

Hilton is running a combination route here with Donte Moncrief. They’re both running post routes, which means the safety has to make a tough decision on who to cover, while leaving the other open. With the safety deciding to squat on Hilton’s trajectory, this clip shows how much the Titans respect his deep game, a recurring theme of the night.

Hilton’s speed demanded enough attention that it got Moncrief open for an easy touchdown. Unfortunately, he dropped the pass and the Colts had to settle for a field goal.

(Left outside receiver)

It looks like Jacoby Brissett shifts his attention towards Hilton here, but the receiver is unable to shake loose of his mark. This forces Brissett to turn to his next option and Hilton doesn’t capitalize on a possible completion here.

(Middle receiver in trips on left side)

Hilton does a great job of turning around his defender, to get open on a deep out, even with safety help over the top. Though he does tend to round out his routes, he still finds ways to get open for his quarterback, as he did in this case.

(Outside receiver on right side)

Brissett may have chosen the wrong receiver to throw to on this double-in route play design. Kamar Aiken was open enough to complete the pass, but Hilton had a bigger cushion between him and his defender, and had a lot more room to run after the catch.

Brissett was under pressure, but he needs to throw with anticipation more often. There are a few plays where this occurs, and could’ve contributed to Hilton’s lackluster day.

Just something to keep in mind as we chug along.

(Outside receiver on right side)

I’m not sure if Brissett turned his back on Hilton because he was trying to look off the safety, or because he foresaw Hilton wouldn’t create separation from the cornerback, but either way, he made the right decision.

The defensive back made a great break on the route which prevented a potential completion to number 13.

(Outside receiver on right side)

It’s a little harder to say for sure if Hilton would’ve converted the catch or not, but it certainly was worth a shot. His defender takes a false step even before Brissett starts his release, and this is enough to give the speedy Hilton an advantage on a deep route.

This is another example of Brissett not trusting his receiver to win a one-on-one battle, which may have cost the horseshoe a touchdown.

(Slot on right side)

T.Y. runs a drag route and basically has the entire Titans defense shift his way.

Hilton was often in situations where more than one Tennessee defender was focused on him, and this is a good example of that sentiment.

(Slot on right side)

This is an occasion where you want to see an elite, veteran receiver toast a rookie cornerback. Hilton has plenty of grass to his right, where he’s running his route, but he doesn’t beat Adoree Jackson on the flag route, instead getting blanketed by the athletic newbie.

This was a gigantic missed opportunity, and shows that his underwhelming performance wasn’t solely based on factors that were outside of his control.

(Slot on right side)

This play is yet another example of Hilton having a real opportunity to make something happen out of the slot and not taking advantage. In fact, it looks like the outcome of the play should’ve been far more fatal than a simple incompletion.

Hilton should win these matchups, especially with so much space to work with.

(Outside on right side)

Brissett is under pressure here, so it would’ve been a tough throw to make. But, again, if he threw with anticipation and trusted Hilton to beat a defender facing the wrong way, it could’ve been an explosive play. Hilton takes advantage of the corner taking inside positioning and beats him to the outside.

The corner makes a fluid motion to recover, but there’s enough space to complete a pass to the ghost, and it doesn’t happen.

(Slot left side)

Hilton actually gets targeted for a pass! Though, it was basically a throw away.

Hilton doesn’t create a lot of separation, and another defender is looming where his route is headed, but there’s enough space there to at least fit it in a window.

Instead, Brissett hesitates and doesn’t make a decision until Hilton’s route reaches a dead end, which results in a throw away.

(Slot left side)

Hilton is in the slot here, yet again. And he really gets completely blanketed. The contact may have been a little much 10 yards downfield, but he doesn’t really get a good handle on the route and is kept under wraps in another one on one opportunity.

Brissett seems to look his way only for a second, and realizing T.Y. isn’t going to get open, turns the other direction, avoids pressure and essentially throws the ball away.

(Slot right side)

This was a huge play, because it resulted in an intentional grounding penalty that cost the team a chunk of yards, and a loss of down.

If ever there was a time for Brissett to trust T.Y., it was on this snap.

Hilton was going full speed at a defender that was not equipped to handle it and no safety net to save him.

Hilton was wide open.

Yes, there was an unblocked pass rusher, so it might be asking too much of Brissett to make this throw. However, if he didn’t hesitate, he would’ve had the time to stand in the pocket, step into his throw under pressure and deliver a pass that would’ve put 6 points on the board in a crucial divisional matchup.

All it takes is a little faith.

Conclusion:

At first watch, I felt as if Hilton had failed individually more than anything else. Going through the plays a few more times, I realized that statement doesn’t necessarily tell the entire story.

Yes, there were several occasions where he was the primary target and all he had to do was win mano a mano, and he didn’t execute. However, there were several other times where he was either the decoy, or got himself open, but his efforts were thwarted because Brissett didn’t execute. This was usually due to the fact that Brissett seems to hesitate when he has to foreshadow where the route will go.

This isn’t to say Brissett had a bad game, just not the best day when looking towards Hilton.

In the NFL, throwing with anticipation is the best way to make your money, especially when you’re dealing with your best receiver, one who has been towards the top of the receiving leaders’ list for at least the last 2 seasons.

This aspect of Brissett’s game could easily improve simply by spending more time around Hilton. He just needs to trust Hilton’s going to win his one-on-one matchups, especially when it’s dependent on speed.

Of course, this all goes back to Hilton getting open when Brissett does give him an opportunity, which he didn’t do in Tennessee. As much as we like to blame one person when a problem arises, it seems this is a case where it was a variety of factors. The play calling, quarterback play and T.Y.’s performance all contributed to his disappointing statistical output.

He’ll have to work hard to rebound this week against the elite duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, when they face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars.