Broncos wary of Hill in rematch with Chiefs
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos knew about Tyreek Hill’s speed the first time they faced him. They quickly learned about his versatility, too.
Hill ignited Kansas City’s 30-27 overtime win in Denver last month by becoming the first NFL player since Gale Sayers in 1965 to score on a return , a rush and a reception in the same game.
He hasn’t slowed down either.
Two weeks after starring in the Chiefs’ win at Denver on Nov. 27, Hill scored on a 78-yard punt return and a 36-yard catch against Oakland. He scored on a 68-yard run against the Titans last week.
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“He’s a beast right now,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “He single-handedly gave us fits last time.”
“He’s really hot right now,” said Broncos special teams coach Joe DeCamillis.
“A young, emerging star,” is how Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips described him.
The Chiefs figured Hill would make his mark as a kick returner when they drafted him in the fifth round, but his role expanded when receiver Jeremy Maclin was sidelined Nov. 6 in a game against the Jaguars. Now that Maclin is back, offensive coordinator Brad Childress has a much bigger bag of tricks.
Hill has scored 10 touchdowns — six on catches, two on rushes, one on a punt return and one on a kickoff return.
“He’s like a wild card,” Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “You play Uno and you’ve got a wild card. He can do it all.”
So, it’s no stunner that Hill is the fulcrum of the Broncos’ blueprints for a season-salvaging victory Sunday night in the rematch at Kansas City.
The Broncos (8-6), who could be without safety T.J. Ward (concussion) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (neck), would prefer to keep the ball out of Hill’s hands on special teams but the forecast of rain and wind might make that difficult.
Last month in Denver, Hill returned his first punt 17 yards and looked like he’d score if Justin Simmons hadn’t made a shoestring tackle. It was just a taste of what was to come that night.
After Kansas City recorded a safety following Jordan Norwood’s first of two muffed punts, Hill fielded the free kick at his 14 and raced for an 86-yard touchdown, high-fiving a teammate on his way into the end zone.
He added a 3-yard TD run on a jet sweep in the third quarter. His biggest plays came with the Chiefs trailing 24-16 with no timeouts left in the final minute.
Facing fourth-and-10 from the Denver 14, Hill caught an 11-yard pass against cornerback Bradley Roby with 15 seconds left. On the next play, Hill hauled in the touchdown pass, the ball rattling off his shoulder pads before he secured it while sitting on the goal line when a clean catch probably would have come up short as the clock ran out.
The Chiefs converted the 2-point conversion to send it into overtime, where the teams exchanged field goals. The Broncos missed a 62-yarder with a minute left, setting up a short field for the Chiefs to win it on Cairo Santos’ banked field goal as time expired .
DeCamillis called it the worst special teams performance he’d ever seen. His units rebounded the following week at New Orleans, when they recorded the first defensive 2-point game-winner in NFL history.
The Broncos have lost their last two, however, including a 16-3 clunker against New England on Sunday in which Norwood returned to his punt return duties even though Kalif Raymond had done well in his place. Norwood promptly muffed his first chance, then fumbled away the football following his only catch.
DeCamillis is considering using receiver Emmanuel Sanders or reinserting Raymond on punt returns on Christmas night.
“He’s got a future,” DeCamillis said of Raymond. “If he’s back there, it’s going to be a big challenge for him this week because of the situations and weather conditions. It’s going to be a big challenge for all of us.”
So will Hill, although DeCamillis thinks he’s hit on a way to keep him from hurting the Broncos on special teams again.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to punt at all,” DeCamillis said. “That would be great. Then, you don’t have to worry about at least one phase.”
NOTES: The Broncos might have to sign a tight end because they’re down to Jeff Heuerman with A.J. Derby and Virgil Green still in concussion protocol. … ILB Brandon Marshall still hasn’t practiced since re-tearing his left hamstring at Jacksonville on Dec. 4.
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