2016 Play of the Week – Week 17

Game: Chiefs at Chargers

Play: The King of the Hill strikes again


What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

I will be the first to admit that there are times that I may sound like a broken record here at Football Beyond the Stats. Usually this is for a very good reason; it often deals with times where I am discussing some of the all-important topics related movement skill performance & acquisition…then, there are other times, when a player’s movement mastery is jumping off of the field even versus his peers who happen to also reside at the highest levels of qualification.

Today is likely to be one of those times…

For the 2nd time in the last month, Kansas City Chief rookie Tyreek Hill reigns supreme across the entire National Football League for what he did in Week 17 versus the Chargers (here is last time’s: https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/2016-play-of-the-week-week-14/). The only way to put it is that what he did yesterday just wasn’t fair (as you are about to see).

Based on what we have seen from this dazzling rookie this year, I don’t think it will be any surprise who can be expected to find himself with a place on our All-Movement Team next week…the only question will be: based on his performance down the stretch, does he have an upset chance of actually being in the running for our Mover of the Year?!

So, without further adieu, here is our last movement play of the week for the 2016 season!

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Before we begin, let me just say that it’s very, very rare to see a rookie have this level of attunement to the types of task dynamics which are present in the NFL. There are certain exceptions, of course, which mostly revolve around certain positions on the field or possibly a particular player’s given strengths which allow him to succeed. However, the more chaotic (quickly changing) and less pre-planned the task (unpredictable), the more convergence and integration of overall perceptual-motor skill is required and returning punts definitely fits within that category. Thus, what Tyreek Hill is doing right now is exceptional. Note: though it does seem poignant to mention that it appears as though his comfort level is rising here late season as his biodynamic structure of these respective movement skills continue to evolve as he gets more experience under these types of movement problems.

Hill catches the punt on the 5 yard line (i.e. the age-old punt catching rule of no punts inside the 10 do NOT apply to the game’s best) and the next thing you know, what happens here in the time between receiving the punt and passing the 20 yard line is a thing of movement mastery beauty; finely tuned perception, concise decision making, followed by super crispy movement execution.

As soon as the ball touches his hands, there is one defender about a yard away from him to his right and another about two & a half yards to his left. Want to know how nerve-wrecking this could possibly be? My suggestion: try even just catching a punt outdoors with someone running at you yelling distractions at you let alone running at you to take your head off with multiple buddies (10 to be exact) with that same singular purpose. Hill’s unique and apparent kinesthetic sense & awareness allows him to get out of this trouble with ease by taking a quick reverse plyo jab step with his left foot which places his body in a better position to accelerate while still being deceiving regarding his next move.


Hill then takes a few more transition-like steps forward before planting his left foot and cutting almost directly 90 degrees to veer east & west to his right. With this defender in close confines to him his comfort level doesn’t seem rattled at all. However, he is forced to side-step his teammate working on one of the earlier defenders which allows the interpersonal distance between Hill and the oncoming Charger to get ate up quick and allows that guy to now get a piece of him which sends him just slightly off balance. As is usually the case with players whose sense and awareness are calling cards to their success (generally-speaking here), he is quickly able to regain that balance and get himself back into an acceleration mode (which is why many of the deceleration and plyometric activites that we perform in training are so vital).

From the 10 to 20 yard lines, we get to see Hill put on a display of something that makes him very special as he outruns the Charger pursuit to the edge to potentially get a Chief convoy to the endzone. Most players in the League, even other top punt returners, would have had this angle closed with nowhere to go. However, there’s a reason why affordances for action differ from player to player: because every player has vastly different action capabilities. From what I have seen from Hill, he understands the limits of his action capabilities (what he can do and where he can get and how!) very well and seems to know just how far he can push them. This (from the 10 to the 20ish) is a good example of this characteristic.


From here, it’s now going to be off the races…but before it is, let me get this soapbox moment out of the way…

I have seen countless people on various social media outlets proclaiming from the mountains the resounding message: “Of course Tyreek Hill is so good…he ran track!” However, to the people who make this seemingly obvious connection between Hill having run track at a relatively high level and him now solving problems in agility situations on a football field are failing to realize some of the fundamental flaws of this mention: 1). Everything…and I mean, everything…in these situations that we see Hill succeeding in, it’s his extraordinary perception which guides his exceptional actions and even puts him into a position in order to get in the open field and show off his excellent mid-range and top-end linear speed. 2). Furthermore, running on a track and running on a football field have a very different structural make-up of the skill (i.e. the coordination, control and optimization of the movement solutions). 3). Because both points 1 and 2 are true, lots…LOTS…of the best linear track athletes in the world would struggle mightily under the task requirements of football movement problems. Overall, what I am saying here is that correlation does NOT equal causation!


That all said, do we get to see Tyreek’s linear speed skill on display? Yes, yes, we do! And is it pretty to watch and different than his peers? Yes, yes, it is! Is it biomechanically very efficient and technically effective? Yes, yes, it is! Does it assist him in making plays? Yes, yes, it does! Does it mean that every player attempting to return punts at the high level of proficiency that Hill does should run track? Umm…no, no, it doesn’t!


Anyway, I digress…around the Chief 46 yard line, Hill is forced to decelerate briefly as there is essentially one guy left to beat who played the remaining green grass well by using the boundary even with several KC players left to account for him. This player gets his hands onto Hill but because of the outnumbered nature present now Hill finds himself past that Charger and now with an unlikely guy to beat yet…his own teammate who is stumbling to the point where he almost forces his dynamic punt returner out of bounds. Luckily for Hill and for the Chiefs though, Tyreek can take his time now (because there are no Chargers who still have a legitimate shot yet) and is able to bypass this novel problem with relative ease to tip-toe between his teammate and the sideline. From there, he finds himself able to coast to the endzone and the KC TD.

To check out this last play of the ’16 season, click here.





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