After beating the Denver Broncos for the 13th consecutive time, the Kansas City Chiefs finished the regular season with a 12-5 record. As things currently stand, the Chiefs are still the No. 2 seed in the AFC. However, if the Houston Texans can upset the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the road to the Super Bowl will once again go through Arrowhead.
As was revealed midgame, Chiefs star wide receiver Tyreek Hill was limited due to a heel injury. The six-time Pro Bowler only caught one pass for 2 yards.
In his absence for much of the game, third-year wideout Mecole Hardman stepped up. Hardman caught eight balls for 103 yards, marking the first game in Hardman’s career that he reached more than 100 yards receiving.
“We were able to get the ball in his hands quickly, and you saw him just explode,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. “I mean, he was playing fast — very fast. He was explosive. We’ve seen that in other games, but he really had opportunities to get it quickly and hit it.”
Hardman was stunned when he found out about his increased role before the game.
“I’m like, y’all said, what!?” an animated Hardman told reporters following the game. “I’m like, OK, cool, so then I just locked in completely. We practice hard, so I’m always ready for those type of situations.”
Hardman understands there’s a different mindset you have to display when walking into the top wide receiver role.
“You definitely got to flip that switch,” he stressed. “But even when your role isn’t that high, you still want to be locked in mentally. Whenever you get a chance to catch the ball or an opportunity presents itself, you want to be ready. In that kind of situations, it’s different, so you definitely got to have an extra boost knowing that you’re going to be targeted a little bit more — and the team is going to need you a little bit more. So, it’s definitely a little bit more pressure on you going into the game. But I was ready for the challenge, and we came out with the good win today.”
In an ideal world, Hill would have been out there, flying around and making plays. But with that being said, it was good for the Chiefs to see Hardman was capable of such a game.
“When a superstar like that isn’t on the field as much (Hill), someone has to step up and take those snaps and take those targets,” Hardman said. “And that’s what I did.”
While thrilled about the win, Hardman didn’t hide the fact he was happy to finally crack the 100-yard mark.
“I was like damn, I finally got a hundred,” said an overjoyed Hardman. “It’s been a long time since I seen a hundred yards. I think back to South Carolina and Georgia since the last time I seen a hundred yards. It’s a great achievement. It’s something to be proud about, especially since you got the win. Hopefully, I can get some more of those, but just know I’m happy about that hundred yards.”
As the Chiefs move onto the postseason, it’s unclear whether they will play this weekend or next. However, there is some clarity regarding Hardman, who may be best suited to play even when Hill is on the field.
Evidence Saturday showed it might only make the Chiefs offense more dynamic.