Game: Raiders at Chiefs
Play: Tyreek turning into the king of the Hill
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
If you’ve followed my plays of the week over the past four seasons, you probably know how excited I get by the dynamic interplay that occurs in the movement problem environment anytime that a punt is able to be returned. No other situation on an NFL Sunday represents the same type of rapidly changing & chaotic task constraints as a punt in the air does for a returner (with 11 men coming with a singular purpose to take your head off). Thus, anytime that a punt is returned for a TD it immediately goes onto my radar for that week’s top play. Hence, this week’s top movement play goes to Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs and his dazzling return versus the Raiders last Thursday night.
There have been a number of times this season where Tyreek Hill has been on the verge of turning in a play that was close to being named our top play of the week only to be edged out in the end by another more worthy candidate (at least determined by my votes only). However, the wait is no longer and as Hill shows on this play, he is definitely more than deserving of the recognition. Additionally, I think it’s safe to say that Hill has solidified himself as a favorite to at least be mentioned in our end of the year All-Movement Team as a special teamer.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
At first glance this play is going to look like a relatively simple formula to a not-overly-complex equation: Tyreek Hill, with a display of top-notch linear speed, does what speed does…wins. However, if you think it’s as basic as that, you would be mistaken.
Hill receives the punt from dancing king punter, Marquette King, at his own 22 yard line with King basically setting it on a tee at the middle of the field for Hill to do what he wants with it (this is Raider mistake #1 here). When Hill receives the ball he has 10 plus yards to work with before the next closest competitor (or teammate interaction) in front of him. It’s always fascinating to me where the best returners, when afforded with this type of situation (with that much green grass) take time to be patient, hesitate for a moment to read & recognize, and then quickly formulate an adequate plan (even if it’s mostly subconscious) for problem solving (as opposed to if you watch a lower level punt returner you see them hit the gas pedal in urgency without having a true plan).
Hill’s plan gets him moving slightly to his left where his eyes fixate early on the oncoming Raider defender. He predicts early where this defender’s path is leading and Hill gives a brief look that he is going to head out to the sideline which get the defender slightly veering that way in expectancy. This altered path on the defender’s part then gives Hill the perfect opportunity to cut it back inside to the middle of the field so at the 23 yard line he performs a staggered stance power cut off of his left foot (with right foot reacceleration) which sets up a teammate between he and the initial Raiders defender.
This cut is very similar to one that we may see many perform out on a practice field or in a training environment (sometimes at a dreaded cone) and this example here may be the most you will ever see it performed in this open of field where it is actually needed/utilized to set up the rest of the movement solution; this is because Hill performs it with a sharp, violent attack at the ground with his left foot to slice out & away from him to create some forward momentum & body lean for reacceleration where he actually didn’t have much built up because he was essentially ‘slow-cooking’ the movement (i.e. moving slowly waiting for his time to strike) prior to this point.
It’s at this moment now that Tyreek hits the acceleration gas pedal with high intention. When it comes to running linearly on a football field Hill may be without equal right now when comparing all positions (note: we are talking about a former high class track athlete here). Because of this, the next 20 yards go by in a blink. This isn’t to say that there isn’t any traffic around him…it’s just that he goes blazing by it all! This is also why I often have my NFL players perform much of their linear sprint work having to go through the traffic of other people (or at least other obstacles) so their sensory-perceptual system constantly gets attuned to staying alert and having to be able to read and/or react at all times. All that said though I have been critical of the limitations of a track technical model on a football field of linear speed applications, you can see Hill’s track influence here in his mechanics.
Though initially it looks as though it may already be smooth sailing to pay-dirt, when Hill is just past the 40 yard line a Raiders defender makes him change his linear path to slightly more angular one. However, this does little to slow him down as the head of steam that he already has built up is more than enough to bypass this wannabe tackler. As he gets this angle and approaches the 50, the Raiders punter is back and this time he isn’t doing his normal type of dancing…instead, he’s trying to cut Hill off with hopes to at least slow him down enough for his teammates to catch up to Hill in their pursuit.
Little did they know, the speedster also has a high-speed, unilateral speed cut in his tool-box. It should be noted that many linear speed-oriented, former track athletes turned football players don’t possess the ability to control this type of built-up speed which often limits their football agility and productivity. The execution difficulty of this speed cut (the one that happens on the 50 yard line), which appears subtle at first glance, should not be understated. The cut gives him just enough angle to get behind King at the Raider 45 yard line while also not detracting tremendously from the speed & momentum that he had built up. From here then we are about to witness the beauty & clean lines of the technical shapes that Hill draws with his mechanics when in the open field running as alone as you will see anyone on a football field all year long.
Yes, we got to see Tyreek Hill show off his straight-line speed on two separate occasions over the 78 yards that were amassed, however, it was the two cutting actions which were the keys to unlock this particular movement problem and get him into the open field to put them on display.
You can check out the play here: