The potential to create a truly game-breaking combination has always been there.
From the earliest of offseason practices, the possibility of what Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill could accomplish together on a football field has been top of mind.
Mahomes’ gifted right arm and Hill’s blazing speed were seemingly crafted for one another, igniting a desire to see the two young players compete together with something on the line.
That curiosity was finally satisfied in Sunday’s season-opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers – and the duo didn’t disappoint.
Mahomes, embarking on his first campaign as the starter in Kansas City, found Hill seven times for 169 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon – the most receiving yards the Chargers have allowed to a single player since Week 7 of the 2016 season.
It was a connection the Chargers simply couldn’t slow down.
“Everybody on our team is trying to advance their game and get themselves better, and Tyreek had really worked on his route running and everything in order to make him one of the best receivers in this league,” Mahomes said. “I think today showed that he’s improved in that part, as well as the speed that he can bring at any time.”
Hill represented a consistently reliable target as the 22-year-old Mahomes shook off any early-game jitters – but not before the electrifying Hill delayed the offense’s much anticipated debut with a big play of his own.
Just minutes into the game, Hill returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown – putting Kansas City out in front almost immediately and suspending Mahomes’ first snaps under center just a bit longer.
“It was hard after Tyreek returned the punt,” Mahomes said laughingly. “The first drive, I tried to calm myself down and just run the offense. It helped last year having that Denver game - I knew when I first got out there that I was too excited and needed to calm myself down before making a mistake.”
That strategy appeared to work just fine, as Mahomes found Hill streaking across the field on the Chiefs’ fifth play of their opening drive. The dynamic Hill then did the rest, cutting up field for a 58-yard touchdown to extend Kansas City’s early advantage.
“Pat had the option to hand it off or throw the slant, so I was able to use my speed and get behind defenders and take it to the house,” Hill explained. “Everybody did their job. The offensive linemen did their job, Pat did his job and I was able to take it to the crib.”
Mahomes found Hill regularly throughout the remainder of the contest, with five of the duo’s seven connections going for 20 or more yards. It’s something that existed it part because of Mahomes’ pacing within the offense.
“[Mahomes’ tempo] helps a lot – especially with routes,” Hill added. “As a receiver, you want the ball on you as soon as you come out of a route. Pat has been doing a great job of that ever since OTAs [Organized Team Activities], and he’s really trusted the process with [Head Coach Andy] Reid and [Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy].”
Indeed, Mahomes often displayed a rhythm within the offense to the tune of 256 passing yards and four touchdowns. It wasn’t perfect, but it wrapped up into an encouraging sight for Head Coach Andy Reid.
“I thought he did a nice job. He’s going to have things that he needs to work on, like everybody, and he knows that. This will be a great learning tool for him as he evaluates the tape, but he made plays,” Reid said. “He did it with his legs, he did it throwing and he did it with checks [at the line].”
All while facing a Chargers’ defense that held opposing quarterbacks to the fourth-lowest passer rating in the NFL last season (78.1).
“I have a lot of respect for [Chargers’ Defensive Coordinator] Gus Bradley and his defense,” Reid noted. “He threw a few things at [Mahomes] and got him a few times, but I thought Pat did a nice job of handling it. He got some experience against a very good defensive coordinator.”
Though as impressive as his final numbers were, Mahomes made a point of identifying the areas in which the offense needs to grow moving forward following the game.
“We still have to get better - I thought we left a lot out there,” Mahomes said. “We scored on some big plays, but sustaining drives and being able to execute wherever we need to execute is something we need to keep working on as we go throughout the rest of the season.”
But in what Reid described as just the beginning of the learning process for his young quarterback, consider Sunday’s victory a movement in the right direction.
“[It’s all about the] steps - we’ll just take the small steps forward,” Reid said of Mahomes. “He’s a talented kid…a special kid.”