After his 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the 31-21 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs rookie wide receiver (and Pro Bowl return specialist) Mecole Hardman has been named the NFL Special Teams Player of the Week for the final week of the regular season.
Hardman’s touchdown was an important play in the victory, again securing the advantage immediately after the Chargers had scored to go ahead 14-10. It was the NFL’s longest touchdown play of 2019 — and one of only five that went for 100 yards or more. Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland’s 100-yard fumble return in the 34-30 victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 4 is one of the others.
On Monday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid wanted to give credit to the blocking and scheme in Hardman’s touchdown — Anthony Sherman and Darwin Thompson both had key blocks — but had praise for Hardman, too.
“His ability to straddle that line now — to where the people in New York had to sort it out to see if he was still in — he tightroped that thing and was able to stay in. But the blocking, I thought, was great. The scheme was good. Then his ability to break that last tackle was also big. He did a nice job.”
Reid said, however, that even with Hardman on the field, we can’t always expect to see the Chiefs being aggressive with kickoff returns out of the end zone, saying that special teams coordinator Dave Toub and statistical analysis coordinator Mike Frazier watch for the right opportunities.
“Time in the air is also important,” he said. “Depending on the kicker you play, Dave has got a pretty good plan on how he goes about that every week. Percentages are against you; if you just go off of percentages, you’re better off downing them there. It depends, though. There are some variables that you have to look at. Frazier does a good job with that — as does Toub.”
Reid also wanted to credit wide receivers coach Greg Lewis.
“He’s been there and done that. He was a third receiver for me for a lot of years in the league. He played for quite a few years. Greg’s been great with him on how to progress — and on how to handle being in the National Football League.”