The Chiefs made it clear on the opening offensive play of Sunday’s contest at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that a big day loomed on the horizon for wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Hill ran a motion route toward the left sideline, setting himself up with single coverage on cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes fired a quick rope to a wide-open Hill for a 34-yard game, kickstarting the Chiefs offense early in a 27-24 win over the Buccaneers.
“It was man coverage with no one over the top and so we don’t get that a lot especially with that guy and his ability and whenever we do, we try to take advantage of it,” Mahomes said.
The Chiefs offense took advantage of the scenario early and often against the Buccaneers. Hill caught seven passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter as the Chiefs built a commanding 17-0 lead. Hill called it a fun, competitive day for him but couldn’t resist taking a shot at doubters who might label him a gadget player rather than a No. 1 receiver.
“I’m a return specialist so I’m going to see a lot of single coverage throughout the whole game,” Hill said.
How anyone could doubt Hill after Sunday is beyond reason. The Buccaneers eventual retooled their defense to counter Hill yet he still finished the contest with 13 catches on 15 targets for 269 yards and three scores, including a third-quarter 20-yard touchdown strike from Mahomes that put the Chiefs up 27-10 and allowed the team to weather a second-half comeback from Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Head coach Andy Reid said he’s seen Hill mature into a complete receiver through hard work and dedication to earn the trust of his quarterback Mahomes.
“There’s a certain mentality that goes with that and it takes a tremendous amount of toughness to do that,” Reid said. “I think that’s probably really where he’s gotten better at. Not that he wasn’t always tough, I’m not saying that but it’s a long season and this kid runs miles. He’s like a midfielder in soccer, I mean, he’s running all over the place. And we have him in a lot of different spots and that can wear on you, and he’s just stayed strong in that area.
“When he goes out to practice, he goes out with a purpose and good things are happening for him.”
Hill says the drive to earn the trust of his quarterback is ingrained in him from his family.
“Each and every week I try to set the mindset of working hard for this team, giving my all because that’s just how my mom raised me,” Hill said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m hurt, if I’m gimpy, limpy, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to go out and try to get the trust of the QB.
“It may be a few plays I may feel sorry for myself but best believe I’m going to come right back the next play and give Pat 110, and he knows that. I’m going to continue to do that, and I’m going to continue to push the other guys to do it because they do it too.”
The Chiefs dipped into another one of their quarterback in motion “Ferrari” package plays against the Buccaneers, but this one didn’t quite work as designed.
Facing a second-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line, Mahomes went in motion and took the snap on the run to his right. He pitched the ball on a reverse to Tyreek Hill, who pitched it to Kelce on a double reverse. Kelce appeared to have a lane into the end zone for a touchdown but hesitated a moment before throwing the ball to Mahomes. Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis batted the pass to the ground incomplete.
Mahomes said he and Kelce developed the play and pitched it to Reid. They named the play “Black Pearl” in homage to The Pirates of the Caribbean since they planned to run it against the Buccaneers. Reid approved of the play on one condition, Mahomes said.
“Coach Reid for sure told (Kelce) if he can run it, run it first,” he explained. “But I was kind of talking to him on the side and was like, ‘If I’m open, man, just throw it to me.’ I think that little hesitation that he had was just because I talked to him too much about it.”
Reid laughed when asked about the play after the game.
“Son of a gun, that’s why they moved him to tight end at Cincinnati,” Reid joked about Kelce. “Son of a gun. We probably should have scored there. 24 (Davis) did a nice job on that play though. Anyways, yeah, we’ll get the next one.”
Sammy Watkins Returns
Much-needed reinforcements arrived for the Chiefs at receiver with Sammy Watkins taking the field for the first time since Week 5 after battling hamstring and calf injuries. Watkins caught four passes for 38 yards in his return but it was his work away from the football that illustrated why coaches and teammates are pleased to see him back in the lineup.
“Sammy being able to work the middle of the field even when he wasn’t getting the ball he’s getting our guys open,” Mahomes said.
Watkins also proved his value on the penultimate play of the game with the Chiefs trying to run out the clock. They faced a third-and-7 at the Tampa Bay 49 with 1:15 remaining. Watkins lined up outside of Hill on the left side, running a rub route toward the middle that caught cornerback Davis in the wash. That allowed Hill to run a comeback route down the sideline and break open for an 8-yard gain a first down that put the victory on ice.
“I may get all the glory, I may get all the shine but Sammy really made that play happen,” Hill said. “He made my guy loop over the top and I was able to come back for the comeback, Pat threw an amazing throw.”
Reid reported only a single injury after the contest. Linebacker and special teams ace Dorian O’Daniel left the game with a sprained ankle. He will undergo further evaluation and treatment when the club returns to Kansas City.
By the Numbers
Mahomes finished his day 37-of-49 passing for 462 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. According to ESPN, he’s the first player in NFL history with at least 30 completions and 300 passing yards in four straight games.
Hill’s 269-yard receiving day pushing him over the 1,000-yard mark for the third season of his career. He currently leads the NFL in receiving with 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns. Right behind him in second place in receiving yards is Kelce with 978 yards on the season.
Quote of the Day
I think the thing that I think about most, like on the first deep touchdown, the out and up, I was thinking about how far of a run that I had I had. I was like, ‘You know what? I feel like Pat is going to throw this ball about 70 yards, so I’m going to have to really stretch out here. That’s the only thing that I think about. I don’t think about anything else. I just be like, ‘I’m really going to be tired after this play,’ because if I don’t catch it (receivers coach Greg Lewis) and coach Reid and EB (offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy), they’re going to be like, ‘Stay in, stay in, stay in.’ And then if I do catch it, I’ve got to run full speed to the end zone. I just think about how tired I’m going to be.
– Hill on what he likes about running routes that include double moves
The 10-1 Chiefs return home in Week 13 to host the Denver Broncos (4-7) on Dec. 6 with the kickoff scheduled at 7:20 p.m. central time on NBC Sunday Night Football. The Broncos hope to have their quarterback group together mostly intact after forced to play Sunday with practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback due to COVID-19 protocols. The NFL has mandated that all clubs close their facilities on Monday and Tuesday in an effort to combat an increase in positivity rates for COVID-19. The Chiefs full squad will return to the practice field on Wednesday.