INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton knows the title chase is on.
He heads into the final weekend of the season with a tenuous 30-yard lead over Odell Beckham Jr. in the NFL’s receiving race. Three other players are within 100 yards of the lead.
Hilton also understands the champion probably won’t be known until Sunday night, after the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars finish their early afternoon game and his two nearest competitors – Beckham of the Giants and Atlanta’s Julio Jones – complete their late-afternoon games.
What he does know is this: He won’t be tracking updates.
”There’s no need to watch it,” Hilton said Wednesday. ”If I get it and we win, I’ll be happy. If I get it and we lose, I won’t be happy. So I want to win first.”
One more win would assure the Colts (7-8) avoid their first losing record in coach Chuck Pagano’s five seasons.
Otherwise, it doesn’t mean much.
Since being eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, players and coaches have spent the past few days answering a litany of questions about what went wrong, who’s to blame, and whether changes could be coming next week. And even as Pagano and Colts players continue to say all the right things about finishing the season like pros, the subplots are starting to supersede the game.
Hilton is trying to become the first Colts receiver to win the yardage crown since Reggie Wayne in 2007. He heads into the game with 85 receptions and 1,353 yards, both career highs, and a third straight Pro Bowl selection. He figures he’ll need more than 50 yards to win it, though he didn’t estimate how much more it would take.
Andrew Luck needs 81 yards for his third 4,000-yard season in four years and would finish with a career-low 12 interceptions if he doesn’t throw any against the Jaguars (3-12).
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, the Colts’ career sacks leader, could be playing his final game in Indy. At age 35, he has struggled with injuries for three seasons and his contract expires after the finale.
And 33-year-old running back Frank Gore needs 36 yards to become Indy’s first 1,000-yard runner since 2007 – and the oldest in the league since John Riggins achieved the feat in 1984 when he was 35. If Gore makes it, he would also join Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders as the only players in league history with nine or more 1,000-yard seasons. All of them are Hall of Famers.
”That’s the goal of every running back, to get 1,000,” Gore said. ”If you get more than 1,000, even better. When I came here, I knew they hadn’t had one since 2007 and I’m so close now, why not go get it?”
With so little at stake, the Colts could turn this into a dog-and-pony show by force-feeding the ball to Gore and Hilton to pad their stats. But Pagano doesn’t expect that to happen, and Gore and Hilton acknowledge they would prefer the milestones come during the natural course of the game.
Teammates acknowledge they will be rooting for their friends to make it. But they’d rather be celebrating those milestones after a season-ending victory.
”We just try to have fun with game, we don’t play for that stuff,” receiver Donte Moncrief said. ”We play to get wins.”
NOTES: Pagano said cornerback Darius Butler remains in the concussion protocol. He’s unsure whether Butler, who will become an unrestricted free agent, will be cleared in time to play against the Jags. … Pagano also reiterated that Moncrief had a shoulder injury but did not update his status for the season finale.
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