There's a rivalry in the making between two AFC South foes: Indianapolis Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton and Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson. 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. ET, NBC) with a postseason berth and possibly a division title at stake. Few matchups will hold as much importance as Hilton vs. Jackson.
The previous matchup between these teams 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 is looking to redeem himself in the season finale.
“It’s like getting a whupping,” Jackson said with a smile, before explaining that you either learn or you keep getting into trouble.
The latter was the case when Hilton beat Jackson for a 68-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Jackson used his recovery speed to get into a position to make a play on the ball, but he turned to locate the ball a fraction of a second late. Hilton hauled it in and a made his way to the end zone.
The lesson Jackson took away from Hilton's performance was to not have "bad eyes," because there were times when he looked back for the ball and couldn'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 facing pressure, which provided time for Hilton's routes that take longer to develop.
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 [Jackson]," Pees added. "We didn't do well in the pass rush; there were a lot of things."
After the loss, Jackson accepted the blame for Hilton's outburst. Jackson said it was all on him and acknowledged that 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."
There are going to be days when the opposition wins, but, as Ryan said, 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.
The Titans will need Jackson to be at his best on Sunday, as he faces a big challenge. Hilton excels at 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 his ability to adjust routes on the fly. The corner has the speed to turn and run with Hilton, which should lessen the Titans' worry when Luck goes for the home run. Jackson rarely gets anxious when a receiver eliminates the cushion as he's in coverage. Instead, the calm and cool demeanor he embodies off the field surfaces.
"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," Jackson said.
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," he said. "People back home and everybody gets to see you."