INDIANAPOLIS — There were no flips in the end zone, and thus no congratulatory tweets from Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.
Instead, on his 24th birthday, Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines had to settle for a pair of critical touchdowns and a 34-17 victory against the Tennessee Titans that tied his team for the AFC South lead Thursday night.
It was a fair trade.
“Every now and then, you know how it is, you’re in the zone and you’ve got a little extra juice,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “Nyheim had that (Thursday), so (he) looked great out there.”
The versatile speedster out of North Carolina State rushed 12 times for a team-high 70 yards and added five receptions for 45 more. He scored a touchdown both through the air and on the ground – tying the game in the second quarter and putting Indianapolis ahead to stay in the third quarter.
His 2-yard dive for a 20-17 lead with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter was the most impactful. But his 13-yard reception with 7:49 left in the first half might be best remembered.
On that pass, Hines beat his defender to the sideline, turned the corner and stretched out the full extension of his body while remarkably keeping his knee off the ground for the score.
“It was impressive watching it live, but watching it on film, just the footwork and his instincts in the route running – there were some technical things that he did in the route that I have just seen him work on time and time again that created maximum separation on the break out,” Reich said. “And then just his speed and acceleration to then turn the corner and score, I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of backs that score on that route other than Nyheim. And I think that 99% of that is how hard he works at it.”
That work has been paying off handsomely in recent weeks.
Hines has accumulated 442 yards from scrimmage and a team-high six touchdowns – four receiving and two on the ground. Three of the touchdown receptions have some in the past three weeks, with Hines punctuating each of them with impressive runs into the end zone.
He had three catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 1, celebrating the scores with an elaborate gymnastics routine in the end zone that drew the admiration of world champion Biles.
The touchdown dances were more understated Thursday in Nashville, but the statement was impossible to miss. It was Hines’ highest rushing total since a 78-yard performance against the Oakland Raiders in 2018, and his 115 total yards marked a career high.
On an offense still searching for its identity, Hines is emerging as a versatile weapon.
“I think I’m a dynamic player, and I think in space I’m one of the most dangerous guys out there, and I feel like I’m a spark plug on our team,” he said. “I may not touch the ball a million times. I feel like when I go in there, it’s a change of pace. They rode the hot hand (Thursday night), and the Lord blessed me to have the hot hand (Thursday) and (I) just had to make the most of it.
“When you carry the ball, you carry the fate of everybody in that organization – the people before and after you. So I took that with pride and just ran the ball hard.”
With the Colts (6-3) in the midst of their toughest stretch of the season, Hines’ surge is welcome.
Indianapolis will host the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 22 before a rematch with the Titans on Nov. 29, completing a stretch of four games against likely playoff teams.
The Colts are likely to continue a running back rotation they believe makes the team more difficult to defend, and Jonathan Taylor and Jordan Wilkins will remain a big part of the scheme.
That’s fine by Hines, who notes each rusher simply has to take advantage of the opportunity when his number is called.
“Every week I work hard, I prepare and I really feel like each week I make the most of my opportunities,” he said. “If I touch the ball twice or three times, every game I feel like I somehow make a play and try to have a positive impact on the team. That’s how our team is.
“One week it may be JT. The next week it may be Jordan, and then (Thursday) it was me. So we’re hard to prepare for. But, really, (you) just gotta make the most of your opportunities.”