Many would argue that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the best in the world right now. Many would also suggest that his teammate Tyreek Hill is currently the NFL’s most difficult wide receiver to defend.
And there are some who would tell you that Mahomes and Hill are currently the league’s most explosive quarterback-to-wide receiver combination. They might even say it’s a match made in football heaven — perhaps the greatest ever.
I am one of those people.
So let’s look at how the special traits of these two players allowed Tyreek Hill’s incredible, dynamic performance on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles to feel so... normal.
The deep connection
Hill is quite literally the league’s only wide receiver who almost certainly needs a safety assigned over the top on every single play. When teams don’t commit the appropriate level of defensive resources to mitigate his impact, Mahomes and Hill go off.
Throw + catch of the day: when Mahomes sees a 1v1 press opportunity for Tyreek, he's usually quick to capitalize. Safety at top of screen isn't getting over w/ hips turned inside at the snap. I'm always amazed by how well Hill tracks the ball downfield (1/2) pic.twitter.com/k62ky5FSrq— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 6, 2021
But by itself, being the fastest player in the league isn’t enough. What cements Hill’s status as the NFL’s most dynamic weapon is that he is one of the best in the game at making plays on the football deep downfield.
In order to maximize his success, however, he still needs a quarterback who can get him the football in a variety of ways. Fortunately for Chiefs fans, Hill catches passes from a guy who can do just that. When Mahomes and Hill go to work in the Kansas City offense, there is truly no area of the field that isn’t threatened.
The kill shot: PHI sends the blitz, the poor deep safety is left alone to cover Hill, gets turned inside out by Tyreek's route stem. Mahomes can make the awkward throw off his back foot and put it in stride for 10 in the face of pressure and that is why they are the perfect duo. pic.twitter.com/VgXp4r3ZKL— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 6, 2021
Run-pass option concepts
There are numerous benefits to be had from the newly-constituted Kansas City offensive line dominating the opposition in the running game — as they did against the Eagles on Sunday. One of them was how much success they had while executing slant/flat run-pass option (RPO) plays — specifically in the second half.
As the game wore on and the offensive line took over, Mahomes and Hill had great success with run-pass option (RPO) slants. First two plays aren't even the cleanest of pass reads, but Mahomes is throwing the slant as good as any QB in football right now. TD #2 for the Cheetah. pic.twitter.com/vFO7TwpJIs— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 6, 2021
Mahomes’ incredible arm strength — even from non-traditional platforms — enables the two of them to be ‘right’ even when the play is sometimes read somewhat incorrectly; Hill is not afraid to make these plays in traffic near the middle of the field. Once the ball is in his hands, he typically only has to make one or two players miss before he is off and running for a long, long time (see the 2020 AFC Championship game vs. the Buffalo Bills).
Counters to extra coverage attention
In the previous two games against the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers, those defenses did a fine job of making it very challenging for Mahomes to get the ball to Hill in open areas. They did so by dedicating extra defenders to help cover Hill — which allowed other offensive skill players like Travis Kelce to shine brightly in those contests.
So against the Eagles, head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s game plan had some additional wrinkles that allowed Mahomes and Hill to develop a more consistent connection.
A counter to some of the bracket coverages Tyreek has seen so much of lately - Reid emptied the backfield a few times w/ 10 down in the near slot. Gets isolated on a linebacker in space twice for easy chunks, one of which was his first touchdown. pic.twitter.com/6yrXacH9fh— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 6, 2021
Teams have kept their safeties deep against KC and that's what PHI has here - Nelson passes Hill off to deep defender not on the screen. Intermediate passing lane is created and Mahomes has the arm strength to whip it in before DBs can close on 10. Then Hill does Hill things. pic.twitter.com/R5f3EHsp6s— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 6, 2021
Crucial 3rd-and-4 at the end, the Eagles have to be more aggressive in the box b/c of how effective the #Chiefs had been rushing. Hill and Kelce both get extra attention from safeties, but the CB on Hill takes inside leverage and the separation is easy money on the out route. pic.twitter.com/c1yhGmRl2Z— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 6, 2021
And when all else fails, Reid and Bieniemy have always been great about getting Hill touches with end-arounds, jet sweeps and screen passes. When targeting him in space, Mahomes’ quick release and superb ball placement always allows Hill to create plenty of yards after the catch.
A subtle thing about the Mahomes + Hill connection - the quick screen. 15 can get the ball out of his hand so quickly w/ accuracy and then 10 is the most explosive ball carrier we've maybe ever seen. Outcome isn't spectacular here but they're also on the near hash to begin with. pic.twitter.com/qf6KzGfg5Z— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) October 6, 2021
Even on this play — given the hash from which the ball is snapped and how well the Eagles play it — the Chiefs get a solid result.
The bottom line
The Mahomes-to-Hill connection dominated the Eagles on Sunday — not for the first time, and not for the last. With new wide receiver Josh Gordon now joining the team, it could be even more difficult for opposing defenses to mitigate the damage Mahomes and Hill can do.
Now led by a youthful, physically dominant offensive line, possessing solid complementary playmakers and the elite trio of Mahomes, Hill and Kelce, the Kansas City offense aims to maintain its historic efficiency through the rest of the season.