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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes was being chased by a defender to the sideline and had to make a quick decision on what would be the single most important play of the Kansas City Chiefs‘ season-opening win over the Cleveland Browns.
As he ran, Mahomes spotted the raised hand of Tyreek Hill well down the field. And as he did so many times against the Browns, he threw it to Hill.
“Sometimes you just throw it up,” Mahomes said. “He’s a little dude, he goes and catches it and he’s pretty fast so usually good things happen.”
The play worked out well for Mahomes and the Chiefs. Hill eluded the safety to make the catch and ran the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown that pulled the Chiefs, trailing most of the game, to within two points of the Browns. The Chiefs would go on to win 33-29 with Hill’s 11 catches for 197 yards leading the way.
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Similarly, when the Chiefs needed touchdowns from inside the Cleveland 20 in the second half, Mahomes looked for his other go-to receiver. Travis Kelce caught both of his touchdowns in the red zone, including the score midway through the fourth quarter that put the Chiefs ahead for the first time. Kelce had six receptions for 76 yards.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ other wide receivers, tight ends and backs combined for 10 catches and 64 yards. Nobody on the Chiefs will complain, not when the combination of Hill and Kelce carried them to a comeback victory. But they know the passing game will work better when others such as wide receiver Mecole Hardman and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire are more involved.
“Those guys are open,” Mahomes said. “There was a play I think I threw to Tyreek down the left sideline at the time for us but if I just had a little bit more time, Mecole was popping for a touchdown. There was a play to [Demarcus Robinson] where I’ve hit that play a thousand times [and] I kind of underthrew him.
“Those guys are going to make plays. In this offense, with guys like Tyreek and Travis taking so much attention, they’ll make plays and I have to trust them that they’ll do it.”
It’s nothing new for Kelce and Hill to dominate the Chiefs’ receiving stats. They’ve been 1-2 in some order on the team in catches and yards every season since Hill arrived in 2016.
But the Chiefs haven’t had many games like the one against the Browns, where they relied so heavily on them. Hill and Kelce accounted for 63% of the catches, 81% of the yards and 100% of the passing touchdowns.
Last year those percentages were 46, 54 and 65.
“I think that will come,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of getting other receivers involved. “Pat probably answered it best. There were some guys there [against the Browns] that fit into the route and he can utilize them, but he just made the choice to go to the other guys. I think we’re OK there. We’ve got enough flexibility with the tight ends and the other receivers to mix things up a little bit there.”
Mahomes can’t be faulted for sticking mostly with Hill and Kelce against the Browns. The touchdown throw to Hill looked like it might be an interception. Browns safety John Johnson was with Hill at the time. But Hill adjusted to the throw far better than Johnson, something Mahomes was planning on.
“He’s really good at adjusting to the ball,” Mahomes said. “He’s world class. If it’s not his speed, that’s probably the best thing he does is adjusting when the ball is in the air.”
Hill said, “That’s really hard for any [defensive back]. I don’t care who he is. If you’re running full speed and I stop and catch the ball it’s going to be hard for him.”
The Browns had trouble covering Kelce in the red zone. He adjusted his route each time based on the Browns’ coverage and he was open.
“He understands coverages so well,” Mahomes said. “We’re playing a team that plays a lot of zone coverages and they’re flipping zones and changing. They have great players. He can kind of read it on the fly.”
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