This past week against the Ravens showed fans and experts alike that the offense commanded by Patrick Mahomes is just on a different level. They can nearly score at will, and take leads in the blink of an eye.
They’re near or at the top in many offensive categories and surprisingly enough have two receivers in the top five in receiving yards. Sammy Watkins is at two with 311 and Travis Kelce, a tight end, comes in at five with 284. Not many would have guessed that with Watkins having a huge first week and Demarcus Robinson with a huge second week, and then Mecole Hardman with a near 100-yard performance this past week. But Kelce has been right there, the consistent threat he always is, amassing chunk play after chunk play and continuing to show that he is the best tight end in the NFL.
We’ve gotten used to him making huge plays, he has been on the team for what feels like forever, and even though he is the oldest offensive weapon outside of the newly acquired LeSean McCoy, he’s still among the elite. Let’s not forget that he is on pace to accomplish something that has never been done before in putting up a fourth consecutive 1,000 season by a tight end. Of the great tight ends in NFL history, Kelce could very well do something none of them has ever done and in doing so could cement his trajectory to becoming the greatest tight end to ever live.
Watching him come in every week and dominate defenses is special, and not only is he a great asset to the team putting up yards, he hasn’t been costing them in penalty yards with immature, yet funny, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (The best one was him throwing his towel at the ref as a flag.). He has matured on the field and realized that he needs to stop costing yards and instead look to gain more. The way he creates separation with his routes is awesome and it’s so subtle. I played tight end in college so trust me when I say this isn’t easy.
This play itself is pretty cool. Reid draws up incredible plays, as we all know, and has both Hardman and McCoy in motion (left to right, right to left). Kelce is patient off the line and uses a little hop to get around the linebacker in his way, this also draws the safety in coverage on Kelce to his own left while Watkins’ route runs visual interference on the safety. Kelce jump cuts back to his left and is wide open for a nice gain.
The brilliance of this play call is the double motion, the defense slides with Hardman and the entire middle of the field opens up. Mahomes does a great job of hiding the ball as well so the defense believes he hands it off, and all Kelce has to do is beat one on one coverage, which he can do in his sleep. His routes are so different from other tight ends and even receivers’ routes because so often you catch him lulling a defender to sleep with the way he moves then turning on the jets to break away when he has the ball in his hands. Kelce is great but defenses need to make an effort to stop him, otherwise he will make you pay without having to do anything.
The Ravens seem to have a linebacker in press coverage, being lined up directly in front of Kelce, with a safety shaded over-top. So you’d think he gets physical with him right? Yeah, not so much. Instead, the linebacker is a zone defender in the flat and the main man in coverage is a safety that is seven to eight yards off him at the snap. That is entirely too easy for Kelce, all he needed to do was run a seven-yard in-route that turned into a 12-13 yard gain.
Kelce is just always there, he’s almost always in the right spot, and can always be counted on at this point in his career. He is Mr. Reliable and has shown it time and time again throughout his career. He is Mahomes’ go-to man when he needs a completion. Kelce is a leader on this team and I would bet he sticks around for as long as he can still be productive.
Now that we’ve seen the old and reliable player on this offense, it’s time to turn an eye to a guy most had written off during training camp and preseason due to a new shiny toy. Well, Darrel Williams got his shot to impress everyone in week three with starter Damien Williams missing the game due to injury and incumbent starter McCoy playing through an injury as well. Let me tell you something, this man did not disappoint.
This is an impressive display of vision and patience by Williams, also some true quickness when he gets going. When Judon moved inside, shading the outside shoulder of Wylie, that made it an impossible reach block for Erving and forces Williams to be patient, but he sees the cutback lane open up. He just needs to wait for Judon to clear him, thanks to a bit of a hold from Erving that fortunately went unnoticed, and then he burst back through the moving A gap and takes it for a good gain.
This is likely what most people viewed Williams as before this opportunity: a one-cut power back that had decent hands. To be fair, I felt the same last year, I thought he was the short-yardage back and would be useful in that role this season. Then I watched him closely in the preseason and realized that he was much more than just a power back.
The offensive line had themselves a rough time in week two and couldn’t get much going in the run game, but that changed a bit on Sunday. They knew that running the ball would be more important in this game, and this play in particular helped the Chiefs put the game out of reach. The line does a good job getting push up front and the threat of the pass helps hinder backside pursuit, but the block on Jefferson from Kelce is really what springs Williams into the open. He was untouched for 40 yards before Earl Thomas trips him up from behind or Williams would have scored easily.
Williams got up to just over 20 mph on that run, not to mention his burst through the hole is much better than I had remembered from last year. He played at LSU, which just gives a kind of ground-and-pound feel to a back drafted out of there, and it’s a stigma that we clearly have to break in his case. Williams did a lot to show his skills against the Ravens, even including embarrassing a member of their defense.
Here Williams is running a delay route to the right flat. He goes out and blocks the hovering linebacker for a bit, then heads to the flat and makes the catch, which is where the show really begins. He takes away the linebacker’s angle and cuts back inside, knowing he’s not that far behind he cuts further to the left again and makes the same man miss a second time in the same pursuit. Then he finds some open space to maneuver and isn’t taken down until he’s gotten a 15 yard gain. Not bad for a “power back” huh?
Yes, this play was called back due to a penalty, but this shows you the kind of back he really is and the potential he has, especially in an Andy Reid offense where running backs are always good. He is more talented than most of us initially thought and is also an asset in protecting the QB. He can pick up blocks from blitzing linebackers better than most, a huge reason he was on the field for the two-minute drill. He can do it all. Darrel Williams is the most complete back on this team and he is third on the depth chart. The depth on this team has already started paying dividends and will continue to do so in the postseason.
Last but not least we get to a guy everyone is buzzing about and should have been buzzing about before he made some huge plays for the offense. Mecole Hardman is an awesome talent and the way he is picking up the offense as a rookie has been impressing Andy Reid as well as the fans on Sunday. The obvious thing about Hardman is his blazing speed, which you notice most because he has been blowing by defenders and getting to the edge on jet sweeps. But he is also quick, aware, and always makes an attempt to pluck the ball out of the air with his hands. I love his ball skills (Yes, I said “ball skills”, feel free to chuckle) and it was something I underlined after the Chiefs drafted him. But another big thing he brings is a touch of dazzle.
This is just supposed to be a simple screen to Hardman and it quickly turns into much more. A defender gets in the throwing lane and deflects the pass slightly, forcing Hardman to juggle the ball in mid-air. While he’s in the process of catching the ball he’s being closed on by a defender, and once he catches the ball he cuts out of the way in a split second. Then he begins to reverse the field, making guys miss until he finds open space on the right side of the formation. With Mahomes as a “lead blocker” Hardman finds his way for a first down.
Obviously, one of the funnier things to happen this season came at the end of this play with Mahomes making a clear business decision in sliding down as soon as he realizes that Hardman will get a first down, but this is all about the special ability Hardman possesses with the ball in his hands. He can do this kind of stuff on a game to game basis and we are starting to see him and Mahomes get more comfortable. Just imagine what it’s going to look like with Tyreek Hill back healthy and with Hardman gaining confidence. This offense goes from scary to straight deadly and I am so here for it.
Hardman has caught two long passes for touchdowns the last two weeks and should have had another one against the Raiders that was called back due to a holding penalty. He’s showing the reason he was drafted and is quickly turning into a huge weapon for this offense. and with Hill injured he’s picked up some of the slack along with Demarcus Robinson.
The most awesome play of the day was the one-handed grab by Robinson in the corner of the end zone, but Hardman is awesome and deserves a bit of recognition, so we close this discussion with the 83-yard bomb to Hardman, who knew he was going to be open from the moment the corner shaded inside on him, take a look and feel free to comment below!