By this point in the reign of the Kansas City Chiefs, everyone knows just how dominant and explosive their offense is. It’s one that keeps defensive coordinators — and fans alike — awake at night, worry about how to stop Patrick Mahomes and company.
Coming into the Week 13 matchup at Arrowhead, I went back and forth on who I wanted to scout from the Denver Broncos’ perspective on the Chiefs' offense.
Some film study quickly helped me zero in on the 'Cheetah', Tyreek Hill.
In his last three games, Hill has shown pretty much everything you want to see in a No. 1 receiver: the home run ability, the ability to create after the catch, and the ability to be a possession receiver when the time calls for it.
He’s done all of that — and more — in the last three weeks, hauling in 33 passes for 484 yards and six touchdowns, helping the Chiefs go 3-0 in that stretch.
It’s hard enough to take away Hill and star tight end Travis Kelce when you play the Chiefs, but when Hill is rolling like this, you have to pick and choose your battles in-game. I’m guessing with cornerback Bryce Callahan on injured reserve that the Broncos will roll a ton of coverage Hill’s way. It might not matter, though, due to the scheme and Hill’s overall talent.
Let’s take a look.
A Home Run Threat
Mahomes and Chiefs' head coach Andy Reid deserve a ton of credit for the supernova performance Hill put up in Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road.
Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles inexplicably left young cornerback Carlton Davis in press-man coverage with single-high help on Hill throughout the day, and well, it resulted in a 12-catch, 267-yard, three-touchdown performance for the Cheetah.
Mahomes and Reid identified quickly what Bowles was going to do to Hill, and the Chiefs attacked vertically often.
This isn’t the best out-and-up move you’ll see from a receiver in the NFL, but with Hill’s speed, it doesn’t have to be perfect. He catches Davis shifting his weight for the out-route and pounces on it — pun intended — working vertically for the touchdown.
Beware the Press
It’s really hard to try and play press-man against Hill, who is such a freak when it comes to short-area burst and his overall quick-twitch first step.
Davis is again in coverage and fails to slow Hill at the line. Once that happens it’s over for the young Buccaneers corner on the over route. Mahomes throws a great ball, and Hill pulls away from Davis for the catch, then making one man miss after that for touchdown No. 3.
Getting Creative With Usage
Sure, Hill is an absolute burner, but the Chiefs do such a terrific job moving him around, scheming up ways to get him open and get him the football in space.
I love the wheel route up the left sideline off of motion with an RPO mixed in in the backfield.
Look at the way the RPO freezes Davis in the left flat, allowing Hill to slip behind him, leading to the Cover 2 hole shot from Mahomes.
Holes in the Zone
Again, the Chiefs call Hill in motion and he gets a linebacker to trail him in what looks like man coverage pre-snap.
At the snap though, the Raiders drop into zone shortly after the mesh point between Hill and DeMarcus Robinson on the right side.
I really like the patience and awareness here by Hill to settle down along the sideline, rather than turn it up and work vertically. That decision to sit and show Mahomes his numbers turns into a 13-yard completion for a first down.
Stressing the Secondary
It’s so hard to see teams try and play zone against the Chiefs, especially if you can’t get pressure upfront.
When in zone, the Chiefs’ vertical attacks stress the secondary so much, which leads to miscommunications and wrong assignments. When that happens, you have a guy like Hill streaking free through the middle of the secondary on a deep crossing route for an easy score.
Broncos' Best Hope
Communication is going to be key, and that could be tough on Sunday with no Callahan, which will likely force young guys like Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey into larger roles against the best passing team in the league.
A.J. Bouye will likely draw the assignment of Hill on Sunday. That sounds great on paper, but Bouye hasn’t quite lived up to the billing since coming over from Jacksonville.
Denver has to roll coverage over the top, whether that’s star safety Justin Simmons, or strong safety Kareem Jackson. Heck, maybe we even see a three-safety look on Sunday with someone like Trey Marshall, making sure the deep ball is negated as much as possible.
Mahomes and Co. are going to get theirs, there’s no doubt about that. But let someone like Robinson, or Mecole Hardman beat you. You know how dangerous Hill is. Scheme up a way to take him out of the game as best as possible. Doing that should help the Broncos have a puncher’s chance Sunday.