It took no time for T.Y. Hilton to get on the same page with Dak Prescott, and his big-time play ability showed itself when the Cowboys needed it most as they ruined Philly's Christmas
ARLINGTON, TX — In the spirit of the holidays, the Dallas Cowboys unveiled the Ghost of Christmas Present against the Philadelphia Eagles, and his name is T.Y. Hilton. The four-time Pro Bowler made his debut in the 40-34 victory over the team's bitter rivals from Eastern Pennsylvania on Saturday but, more importantly, he was a major reason they won.
On third-and-30 from their own 29-yard line and trying to close a 34-27 gap with only eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, quarterback Dak Prescott dropped back and let it rip down the left sideline to Hilton, who dusted both Darius Slay and Josiah Scott to reel in the bullseye throw from Prescott.
And despite what could've arguably been defensive pass interference against Scott.
"I'm still fast," Hilton said after the victory. "You gotta respect me."
Prescott would go on to end that drive with a seven-yard touchdown to CeeDee Lamb, who himself had another big night (103 yards and a touchdown and eight grabs on eight targets in the first half alone), tying the ball game at 34 before two additional defensive takeaways led to kicker Brett Maher pushing the lead to 40-34 ahead of yet another key defensive stop to end the game once and for all with only 20 seconds and a 19 yards to spare.
On a night that showed what the Cowboys offense can be with Hilton in the mix, particularly in seeing Lamb cool in the second half only for Hilton and Gallup to step up, the 33-year-old issued another warning for opposing defenses in 2022.
"You can go to [Lamb] or you can [come to] me," said Hilton. "But whatever you choose, you're in trouble."
The key word regarding that warning is that it is indeed "another", seeing as he issued one ahead of his debut against the Eagles as well — saying defenses would be crazy to think they could press him in man-to-man coverage without expecting to get smoked down on a go route.
His words, needless to say, were not hollow.
"It was awesome and it sparked us," he said. "If I'm able to do that, sky's the limit for us."
The catch on third-and-30 will inevitably be the one discussed into eternity, but it wasn't the only impact play Hilton had on the day. On fourth-and-8 in the second quarter with the Cowboys trying to close a 10-7 gap after Prescott's pick-six to Josh Sweat put Dallas in a 10-0 hole fairly quickly, the Cowboys quarterback targeted Hilton on a play that drew an illegal contact penalty against Slay.
That became an automatic first down and the extended drive was later punctuated by a 36-yard twinkletoes touchdown from Lamb to give the Cowboys a 14-10 lead.
All told, it didn't take long for Hilton and Prescott to get on the same page in 2022.
"That's a guy that's made a lot of big-time catches in his career," said Prescott. "He's had a long career and been very, very successful. On fourth down, I went to him and he drew the holding call earlier in the game. Right there, third-and-30, he got even with [the defender] right as I was releasing it and I knew to put some air under it and he'd go make a play.
"… Third-and-30? Find T.Y."
It's something the two were working on quite a bit ahead of the game.
"We were practicing [that play] all week and he kept coming to me," said Hilton. "He came to me [in the game] and we made the play."
Hilton has had his fair share of doubters as of late, having battled injury preceding his departure from the Indianapolis Colts; and those same critics point at his age as a reason he's likely lost a step.
It's fair to say he feels a bit vindicated as the clock flips to Christmas Day.
"Absolutely," Hilton said. "Just because my age says I'm 33 doesn't mean I can't still run. I put it on tape today. I look forward to the next couple of weeks and I'm just gonna continue to get better, continue to stay in my playbook and continue to help this team."
The man they call "The Ghost" is ready for whatever the Cowboys need, whenever.
"If they want me to play 40, 50 plays, I can do it," he added.
If you need proof, just ask the Eagles, because they'll be haunted by what happened on the fateful third down for a long time to come, having missed a chance to clinch the division on their enemy's soil.