1. Mecole Hardman ain’t no bust
Much of the Hardman-is-a-bust narrative now being passed around is tied to Seattle Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf — selected eight picks after Hardman in 2018 — and the expectations placed on Hardman not only by his second-round selection, but also by the comparison to Tyreek Hill, who gained 1,183 yards in his second season.
Just for starters, I’m not a fan of these kind of woulda-shoulda-coulda draft scenarios. There’s really no way to know that Metcalf would have had the same production in Kansas City that he’s had in Seattle — or that Hardman wouldn’t have been more productive in Seattle. How well an NFL player succeeds is decided not only by his talent and ability, but also how well he fits in a particular team’s scheme and coaching; NFL players aren’t necessarily as plug-and-play as we might like to think.
With regard to the comparison to the arc of Hill’s career, let’s remember that in Hill’s first season, the team’s leading wide receivers were Chris Conley and Jeremy Maclin. No knock against those two players, but most would likely agree that it was easier for Hill to become a major contributor than it has been for Hardman. And Hill also didn’t have fight his way through a group of backup receivers loaded with talent, either.
All of that said, Hardman did quite a bit to quell the narrative on Sunday, with 96 receiving yards (the second-most of his career) and a touchdown on seven receptions — and 14 yards on two punt returns. (Unfortunately, a really fine 36-yard punt return was wiped out by a penalty). His speed and elusiveness on the first-quarter touchdown pass (more properly a run, but the pitch went forward) was just spectacular.
2. Travis Kelce is halfway to immortality
If you were watching the CBS broadcast of the game, you already know that on Sunday, the Chiefs’ starting tight end exceeded 7,000 career receiving yards. That is indeed a noteworthy achievement.
But it’s also true that with his 109 receiving yards (and a touchdown) against the Jets — his biggest total of the season — he now has 610 yards through the first eight games of the year. That’s well on pace to have more than 1,000 yards in 2020. Last year, he became the first tight end in NFL history to have four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. If he can notch another 1,000 yards this year, he will become first to do it for five consecutive years — but more importantly, the first to do it at all.
By itself — regardless of whether some other NFL player might be a better blocker than Kelce — that will likely be enough to eventually land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But getting there will depend on Kelce continuing to be consistent and available. Fortunately, those are two of the things he does best. He’s now caught a pass in 103 consecutive games — a streak that extends back to 2013.
3. Tommy Townsend can put some zip on the ball — while passing.
Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub has routinely praised the Chiefs’ new punter for his skill at his main job — and denied that the Townsend has played a significant role in placekicker Harrsion Butker’s struggles with making extra-point kicks. Besides... Butker was five-for five against New York.
But on Sunday, we learned that Toub has been holding something back: Townsend can throw a pass, too.
The secret was revealed in the first quarter, when the Chiefs decided that on a punt attempt, Townsend should instead try a pass to wide receiver Bryon Pringle. Although CBS color commentator Trent Green saw it coming, the Jets didn’t. That allowed Townsend to unload a dart that was a bit high — but easy enough for the uncovered Pringle to leap and grab.
The play was good for 13 yards and a first down — and on the next play, the Chiefs pulled off a beautifully-executed 36-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill to put them ahead 14-3.
So Townsend begins his NFL passing career with a rating of 118.8. And oh, yeah... he continues to drop his punts just short of the goal line. Yet again, the Chiefs barely missed pinning an opponent inside the 5-yard line because they just couldn’t quite down an amazing Townsend punt.
I’ll admit it: I miss former Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt. I loved everything he brought to the team. But game by game, Townsend is easing my pain.
4. The other guy is on scholarship, too
The Chiefs went to a lot of trouble this week to say that the Jets were a team worthy of their respect — and during the first half, there were certainly moments where it seemed like the Jets were a better team that we expected.
Quarterback Sam Darnold completed 12 of 18 passes. The Jets were able to establish their running game. They converted a couple of fourth-down plays to extend drives. And they didn’t punt once.
For a team that was touted as the league’s worst, it was tough to watch the Jets offense get these footholds against the Kansas City defense.
But it was a great example of why it’s sometimes more important to ignore the statistics — because despite all of this, the Chiefs went into halftime leading 21-9. That was right on track to defeat the Jets by the advertised point spread. This happened not only because the Chiefs offense was excellent against the New York defense, but also because the Chiefs defense did a terrific job of making stops when they mattered most.
With this game, the Chiefs have now entered the least-difficult part of their 2020 schedule. There will be more games like this one — contests in which there will be moments of doubt because the Chiefs aren’t crushing their opponents.
And before each of them, the Chiefs will patiently tell us that these opponents deserve their respect — because they do. And also because respecting them is the best way to beat them.
5. Andy Reid doesn’t care about your revenge game
One of the storylines of the week — actually for the last three weeks — has been running back Le’Veon Bell’s revenge game against his former employer. Lost in the noise was the revenge game of his new teammate Mike Pennel, who also lists the Jets as his most-recent former team.
I would criticize all sportswriters for engaging in this somewhat absurd search for things we can write about — but I’m afraid that I did it, too. Sorry.
And as usual, the Chiefs head coach showed that he really doesn’t care about our narratives.
At first glance, Reid might seem like a plodder — someone who is so addicted to routine that he could become stale and predictable. But he continues to zig when he is expected to zag — to constantly defy expectations. That’s why he chose to try a fake punt on a first-quarter fourth-and-4 against a team he was expected to beat by 20 points... and why he tried to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Jets’ 14-yard line during the third quarter while leading 21-9... and why he chose not to emphasize Bell in the running game.
You see... that’s not Bell’s job. Instead, Bell’s job to be an effective counterweight for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. And Reid’s job is to win games — even when (or perhaps especially when) the way he goes about doing it defies our expectations.
That’s why Reid is a Super Bowl-winning head coach... and we’re... you know... not.