Game: Chiefs at Cowboys
Play: Hill showing off more than his speed
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
When the 2016 season ended, and when the 2017 began, I knew it was only a matter of time until we saw this performer find his way onto our top spot as the movement play of the week. Certainly, the Kansas City Chief do-it-all playmaker, Tyreek Hill, has been making plays all season long but at times these plays were due to more one-dimensional aspects of his movement skill-set (i.e. namely his blazing speed). This is all fine and dandy to both Hill and the Chiefs because as long as he makes it into the end zone all is well in the world. However, because of the vast array of masterfully executed movement performances each week, often times it takes uniqueness, diversity, and dexterity in both the movement problem and the solution offered in order to get our top spot. As you will see from this week’s play where I feel it is the best movement performance, Hill was finally able to show off more qualities within his movement toolbox than just his extraordinary speed.
Before we go any further though, you can see some past brief write-ups from our blog on the Chief who is looking to make his second All-Movement Team in his two seasons in the League.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
This play begins with time running out in the first half of the Cowboy-Chief game so even though it’s only 2nd and 3 to go, the Cowboys line up in their prevent defense which is backed up to allow for a short to medium Chiefs gain in hopes of heading to the locker room with a 14-3 lead. However, with the Chiefs playmaking crew spread across the field including bunched trips to the wide side which held two All-Movement Team members for 2016 in both tight end Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill.
With just a three man rush attempting to pressure quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs signal caller has plenty of time to casually scan and determine the place (i.e. player) to put the ball into the hands of in order to turn that Cowboy’s allowed moderate gain into something bigger & better. In spatial situations like this, there are few players better than Tyreek Hill currently in the league to expect to do just that. As soon as the ball gets into Hill’s hands, it turns into a glorified special teams return type of play and Hill’s movement instincts fully kick in.
As I have mentioned before, though people rant and rave about Tyreek Hill’s mind-blowing linear speed, (though it certainly accounts for some of the plays that he makes), in my opinion, it is NOT this characteristic that makes him so dangerous in a variety of problem situations on a football field. To match a variety of problems, one needs a variety of solutions. Furthermore, in order to employ access of a variety of solutions, one must become attuned to the nuances of the problem and understand how to match the potential solutions to it. And this IS precisely the characteristic that allows Hill to be one of the best doing it. Luckily for us, we get to see it on display here.
Catching the ball on the 42 yard line, he turns to look up field only to see two of his blockers seven to eight yards in front of him (with another running on the sideline to his left anxious to help out) and not a single Cowboy defender in screen sight. Hill simultaneously gets into brief sub-maximal acceleration mode for the next seven or so yards before casually decelerating to a controlled transition pace still moving linearly up the field. Though a really dangerous playmaker has the ball in his hands running as chill up the field as one will find in the NFL and with blockers ready to act as a convoy, the Cowboys defenders still are likely not panicking yet as they drastically have numbers in their favor (with eight guys scattered from their 25 yard line to their goal line).
Hill employs a Le’Veon Bell-like patient strategy here to let his blockers gain better position while concurrently gathering information from the environment and task around him to make an accurate decision off of (i.e. a key aspect of movement mastery). Being outmanned, the Chief’s blockers must also perceive and make decisions here, as well; in selecting who to block, when to block them, and how to block them. It should go without saying but these movement solutions (by the blockers) will become part of Hill’s interaction with the strategies and solutions he personally selects. This becomes a situation that is known in movement sciences as ‘shared affordances’ where teammates must understand what is trying to be accomplished among one another and determine how to act accordingly.
Because they have numbers in their favors here, a number of Cowboy defenders come free and will have an attempt to tackle Hill. At the 22 yard line, with Hill on the 26, he will face his first immediate agility problem. He stutters quickly to give the defender the impression that he could go either to his left or right here. It’s likely that based off of what he was seeing though, he only had every intention to head to the sideline (with #30 for the Cowboys sealing the gap that exists at the hashes to Hill’s right). Hill hits a quick little jab step with his right foot that morphs into a speed crossover cut to his left. The Cowboy’s defender has no shot here; due in part of his poor high body positioning, late reaction, and a real quick-to-get-moving-laterally Hill.
At the 25 yard line Hill then bypasses this defender (#32) and turns the corner on/with him. Once he ‘feels’ that he is by him, his head and eye gaze immediately look for their next affordance for action. Seeing several of his guys occupying blocks on defenders, he sees a lane along the numbers which for a guy with the world class speed that Hill has, is more than enough to run through. He only hits about three real powerfully-intended acceleration steps with allows him to chew up the next six to seven yards in a hurry. Obviously, while he is doing this, the problem is dynamically changing in front of him, as well. Because of that, when he gets to the 17 yard line, he hits an outside foot, unilateral speed cut which allows him to maintain a tremendous amount of momentum into and out of to push him back into the teeth of the problem.
Out of this cut (which you could miss if you’re not going frame by frame through the play sequence), he ricochets into a quick burst of energy (due to the velocities that he is able to hit early in locomotion as well as the speed he held into and out of the cut) which gets him to eat up traffic-crowded ground till the 12 yard line. It’s at this time, with a whole lot of chaos happening around him, that he executes a fast-acting, hopping motion to bypass the last available Cowboy defenders and finally find himself into the end zone for the unlikely 57-yard touchdown to end the half and close the gap in the score between the two teams.
Click below to watch Hill doing his thing here: