Hardman totaled 60 yards for scrimmage — while being credited for a receiving touchdown and rushing for two more. All three scores were designed plays to take advantage of the fourth-year receiver’s speed. Speaking after the game, Hardman credited his team’s blocking — both from the offensive line and from reserve tight ends — for his success. He also acknowledged solid play calling from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
“First just go to the O-line,” Hardman claimed. “[Chiefs left tackle] Orlando Brown — I don’t know if you all seen him — he was getting out on the edge. [Tight end] Jody Fortson had a key block out there too. Without them, I wouldn’t get into the end zone. I think coach (Reid) called the plays at the right times – and we executed it.”
For his part, Reid gave praise to Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck for planning for the jet sweeps against the 49ers.
“Coach Heck had these jet sweeps dialed up,” Reid explained after the game. “He did like them against this group — but he normally likes them. I thought Mecole did a heck of a job going fast, being patient, and then hitting it. Our guys blocked it well. I think he had three touchdowns. It’s the same play, really, three different times.”
In the final season of his rookie contract, Hardman discussed why much of his notable success has come on such plays.
“I think I’ve got a good feel for it, honestly,” he declared. “Just the vision and trying to find the little holes and the little gaps between the defense to try to hit. If you can get through them with speed and you try to get someone one-on-one — it’s going to be a long day for the defender. So I just try to do that.”
His quarterback added that Hardman is good at trusting his blockers.
“I think what makes Mecole so good at it is — obviously he’s super-fast — but he runs really hard,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes observed while speaking postgame. “A lot of times when you get smaller receivers and you get them on jet sweeps, they want to get outside and kind of get to the sideline and get yards and go out of bounds.
“If you notice with Mecole — that man puts his foot in the ground and gets upfield and then trusts his blockers. You don’t see that out of a lot of guys in this league – and it’s a special talent that he has.”
One blocker Hardman will likely trust again is tight end Noah Gray, who threw a key block on his second touchdown, a 25-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
“I really thought [the 49ers defenders] were going to flow better to that side,” he recalled of the play. “I didn’t want to go out of bounds. So when I saw Noah kind of got off the block, I went back left and I’m like, ‘It’s wide open over here, I’m going to just go over here, then.’ I kind of just went back left then went back right. They did a good job of flowing over there. I just took advantage.”
The Chiefs exploded for 30 second-half points. Hardman believes nothing changed about the play-calling between halves, and that the only real change was how he and his teammates performed.
“Same game plan, we just executed a little bit better,” he said of the improvement after halftime. “Blocking better up front and just getting to our spots as receivers. And Pat (Mahomes) was making great throws out there all day, and the running game started getting going a little bit [and] started opening some things up. Once it started flowing, we were just kind of unstoppable.”
Hardman briefly exited the Chiefs’ Week 2 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers with a heel injury. While he has not missed any action, he has consistently been on the injury report with the issue. He hopes the upcoming week off will give him a chance to complete his recovery.
“That s—t still hurts, for real,” he confirmed. “We’ve got a bye week now. Hopefully, this week, I can kind of get back healthy. It’s just battling through it, doing different things. Padding in the cleat and doing different tape jobs should take pressure off the heel a little bit. As every week goes on, it kind of lessens and lessens.
“Now with this bye week, hopefully I can kind of get back to 100 — and get back to full speed.”