The Dallas Cowboys’ 40-34 victory over the Eagles on Saturday turned on a jaw-dropping catch by a late-season addition at wideout, and his name wasn’t Odell Beckham.
The stage was set on a third-and-30 from Dallas’ own 29-yard line with eight minutes remaining. Trailing, 34-27, in a haymaker-filled NFC East showdown, Dak Prescott had just been swallowed by the relentless Philly pass rush on consecutive plays before finding a miraculous 52-yard connection with T.Y. Hilton. The 33-year-old veteran’s only catch of the day was a massive one, helping spark three Dallas scores in a row, prevent the Eagles from clinching the division and perhaps finally deliver contentment with the WR corps as it stands.
“The ball just took off and I’m like, ‘Well, here we go,'” Hilton told reporters following the game. “That’s what I do, man, I just make plays. That’s what I’m here for. Continue to make plays.”
Hilton’s first impactful action of the contest — and his first as a Cowboy after signing just shy of two weeks ago on Dec. 12 — was drawing a second-quarter illegal contact against Eagles cornerback Darius Slay. Lined up opposite him again on the crucial third-down conversion, Hilton caught Slay peeking in the backfield a second too long and turned on the burners. Then he beat a diving Josiah Scott over the top to a perfectly placed ball.
The seismic shift of a snag moved the chains to the Eagles’ 19-yard line. The Cowboys knotted things at 34 apiece four plays later on a CeeDee Lamb touchdown.
Having snatched momentum, Dallas’ defense forced turnovers that culminated in Brett Maher field goals on the next two drives. It was enough to weather QB Gardner Minshew’s last-gasp, nine-play drive that ended on downs in the red zone with 14 seconds remaining.
Hilton only played 11 snaps due to the Cowboys easing him into shape, but his confidence following the result was full throttle.
“Just cause my age says 33, it doesn’t mean I can’t still run,” Hilton said. “And I put it on tape today. So, I look forward to the next couple weeks, and me, I’m just gonna continue to get better, continue to learn, stay in my playbook and continue to help this team.”
Hilton was somewhat of an afterthought as a potential free agent in 2022 after struggling with injuries and logging a career low in catches (23), yards (331) and TDs (three) in 10 games last season with the Colts, but his heroics Saturday earned him more than a few believers. Chief among them appears to be the man every Cowboy wants in his corner, owner Jerry Jones.
“It was all there,” Jones said when asked about Hilton’s 52-yard catch. “His experience, his speed, [to] turn around and make that play, that’s exactly what he thought he could get a chance to do. He was so excited about coming here and being in games. And so, I’m really proud of him, but I’m proud of our team, too. Because he’ll add a dimension to this thing that just opens it up a little more.”
Hilton echoed Jones’ comments on opening things up, especially in terms of his teammate Lamb, who put together a sensational performance with 10 catches for 120 yards and two scores.
“You can go double [Lamb] or you can [come to] me,” Hilton said. “Whatever you choose, you in trouble.”
It’s tough to argue with him given the results. And the Cowboys are loaded at other positions, flush with the ability to hurt defenses using the dynamic duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield, plus reliable-as-they-come tight end Dalton Schultz.
Coupled with the fact that Hilton will only receive more opportunities to provide Dallas a consistent, legitimate deep threat as his snap count increases, it seems the results were enough to end a monthslong infatuation with acquiring a still-rehabbing Beckham.
“Well, I think the big thing is me or whoever has let enough time go as we get toward the end of the season, that it’s not realistic to think about having [Beckham] in any meaningful way for the playoffs,” Jones said, via Pro Football Talk. “That’s not dismissing [signing Beckham in] the future, but it is dismissing, for the most part, the reality of him getting in here and helping us in the playoffs.”
While the WR corps moves on with Hilton as its prized new signing, the Cowboys as a whole must quickly move on to Week 17. They face the Titans in the 2022 Thursday Night Football finale with an NFC East title still in play.
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