Titans’ Adoree’ Jackson vs. T.Y. Hilton a key game within the game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There’s a rivalry in the making in the AFC South between Indianapolis Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton and Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. As they say, “speed kills,” and Hilton and Jackson have speed for days.

“I think just being as a corner, there’s always going to be a rivalry, especially when there’s a great receiver like him [Hilton] and a great quarterback [Andrew Luck],” Jackson said of the Colts’ stars. “It’s about winning one-on-one matchups, so it’s always going to be a rivalry in that situation. With Luck, he hasn’t lost to us, so it turns into a rivalry without you thinking it’s one. It’s just the little game inside of the bigger game.”

The stakes will be high when Tennessee hosts the Colts on Sunday night (8:20 p.m., NBC) with a postseason berth and possibly a division title at stake. Few matchups will hold the same importance as Hilton vs. Jackson.

The last outing didn’t go so well for Jackson and the Titans, as Hilton’s nine receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns fueled a Week 11 blowout win for Indianapolis. Now Jackson looks to redeem himself in the season finale.

“It’s like getting a whooping,” Jackson said with a smile. He then went on to say that you either learn from the whooping or you keep getting them because you didn’t.

The lesson that Jackson took away from Hilton’s performance was not having “bad eyes.” He said there were times when he’d look back for the ball and didn’t track it.

But it’s not just Jackson who is looking for redemption on Sunday. Luck was able to sit in the pocket without being pressured which provides time for Hilton’s longer developing routes.

Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees offered some simple advice for Jackson this week, but hinted at the need for an improved pass rush.

“Don’t get burned. It’s not rocket science. You have to stay on top, but it’s not only him,” Pees added. “We didn’t do well in the pass rush; there were a lot of things.”

After the loss, Jackson didn’t run from the blame for Hilton’s outburst. He said it was all on him and acknowledged how he needs to do better when he draws the opposing team’s top receiver. Veteran cornerback Logan Ryan stood up for Jackson in the locker room after the Colts game.

“He had to learn from it. T.Y. Hilton is a really good receiver,” Ryan said. “It’s never as bad as you think. You’re going against some of the best receivers in the league. He understands that. One thing about Adoree is he has a great short-term memory. He’s built for this job and is one of the best at it.”

Ryan is right. There’s going to be days when the opposition wins, but it’s all about bouncing back. That’s where Jackson’s chill confidence comes into play.

The second-year corner has the poise of a veteran. Rarely does a bad play carry over to the next snap.

Hilton, in particular, does a solid job of controlling his speed within his routes, allowing the dynamic wideout to get in and out of his breaks. Many of Hilton’s routes look the same according to Jackson.

Jackson commended Hilton for being able to know how to adjust routes on the fly. Having the speed to turn and run with Hilton lessens the worry for Jackson when Luck goes for the home run. Jackson rarely gets anxious when a receiver eliminates the cushion as he’s in coverage. Instead, his calm and cool demeanor off the field surfaces.

“Being in situations before where you understand that you have just to go out and be relaxed,” Jackson said. “It’s about being more patient, being in position and being able to look for the ball and understand where it’s at so you don’t panic.”

Sunday’s game will be in prime time with all eyes on the Titans and Colts. Jackson wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s the blessing about it. People back home and everybody gets to see you,” he said.

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