At this point, Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs offense is the equivalent of Thanos’ Infinity Stones, with the head coach being Thanos.
Having Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in one offense is quite unfair, but when you add in names like Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy, it’s even harder to try and stop the Chiefs’ attack.
Lately, though, rookie wide receiver and gadget weapon Mecole Hardman has become the final infinity stone for Reid and the Chiefs’ offense, giving Kansas City yet another quick-strike weapon that can put six points on the board in a hurry.
Hardman has just 24 catches on the year, but six of those catches have gone for touchdowns. On top of that, he’s averaging 20.8 yards per catch, giving him 498 yards on the year. That’s pretty impressive for a No. 4-5 option in an offense with as much talent as Kansas City’s.
For Denver to have a chance on Sunday, they’ll have to make sure Hardman doesn’t beat them deep (he scored on the Broncos in Week 7). Sure, Hill and Kelce are the big names and the ones that keep defensive coordinators up at night, while Mahomes is incredibly tough to defend.
Hill and Kelce will get theirs from Mahomes. The key is taking away the complementary players.
Hardman is still developing as a route runner, but make no mistake about it: he’s electrifying with the football in his hands.
The Chiefs love to run this type of play to their weapons. It’s a simple touch-pass on a jet sweep. They ran it a ton with Hill early in his career before he fully developed as a route runner, and now they’re doing it with Hardman.
Once he turns the corner against the Packers’ defense, it’s all downhill from there. He has the power to run through tackles and can really chew up ground in a hurry in a straight line.
Whether he’s receiving manufactured touches, or winning on routes across the middle, Hardman’s ability to turn on the jets in an instant and destroy any semblance of an angle of pursuit by a defender is uncanny.
Hardman has great body control here to adjust to this football while working through contact. Once he catches the football over the middle of the field, watch how he gets up to top speed, knifing through the opening for the 63-yard touchdown.
His ability to destroy the angles by defenders is incredible.
I’ve shown you Hardman’s ability to win consistently with the football in his hands, but what about his ability to flat-out take the top off of a defense, making it that much harder to defend the Chiefs as a whole?
I love the way Hardman is able to get on top of the Raiders’ defensive backs in a hurry on this route. Once he’s even, he’s leavin’. Mahomes lets this ball rip even before Hardman has turned back around to get into the middle of the field, so he essentially throws him open. He only trusts the throw though due to Hardman’s speed.
Then, last week in New England, Mahomes threw up a deep prayer to Hardman against the Patriots while under duress.
Mahomes throws this off of his back foot, but Hardman has the ability to win through contact and then almost always wins with the football in his hands. Forty-eight yards to paydirt later, the Chiefs received the spark they needed offensively to upset the Patriots on the road.
How Denver Stops Hardman
There’s really not one guy the Broncos can put on Hardman on Sunday because there are simply too many weapons to worry about at this point with the Chiefs. What they can do though is turn up the heat on Mahomes in the pocket, pressuring him into quicker throws, which could take away some deep-ball shots.
Along with that, Denver's defense can make sure they’re disciplined and communicating well in a hostile environment. The last thing the Broncos need is a communication breakdown that leads to Hardman in the end zone from 50-plus yards out.
Stay disciplined, talk, and make sure everyone is aware of their assignments on every single snap. Lock in for a full 60 minutes and lean in on a top 5-7 defense in the league.