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Titans vs. Chiefs Preparation: Stopping Tyreek Hill

Tyreek Hill scored 7 touchdowns in 2017. Let’s take a look at how he scored each one.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans head to Arrowhead on Saturday to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the first AFC Wildcard playoff match-up of the weekend.

Kansas City has a dangerous offense with multiple playmakers. The offense is designed around getting the ball to playmakers in space and letting them pick up yards after the catch, as the team was 2nd in the NFL in total yards after catch with 2209 behind the New Orleans Saints.

Aside from having productive playmakers who can actually pick up those yards after catch, there are two big reasons that the Chiefs’ offense is able to function so well. One is the running and tackle-breaking ability of Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing this season.

The other is the deep threat.

Tyreek Hill absolutely torched secondaries this season with 75 catches for 1183 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns in 15 games (Hill and a number of Kansas City’s starters sat out Week 17).

His shortest touchdown reception went for 30 yards.

Hill also recorded touchdown catches of 40 yards, 56 yards, 64 yards (x2), 75 yards, and 79 yards throughout the 2017 season.

Let’s take a look at how those touchdowns were scored and discuss how the Titans can prevent such a play from happening on Saturday.

In Week 1 against the New England Patriots, Tyreek Hill got behind the defense for a 75-yard score.

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The Patriots are in a simple Cover 2 Zone, showing blitz at the snap. They cover the play pretty well, until Devin McCourty is distracted by Travis Kelce. McCourty abandons his zone and leaves Stephon Gilmore on an island against maybe the fastest player in football and the result is a wide open throw and catch from Alex Smith to Hill.

This next play comes in Week 3 in Los Angeles. The Chiefs spread out the Chargers defense with Tyreek Hill lining up in the slot.

The Chargers attempt to run some sort of man-zone hybrid that really never stood a chance. The defensive alignment requires a linebacker to cover Hill. Most cornerbacks can’t even keep up with Hill, how is a linebacker supposed to even try?

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So Tyreek runs a corner fade down the seam, away from the safety who is late coming over, and Alex Smith finds him again for the 30-yard strike.

Jumping ahead to Week 7 (Hill’s next touchdown), the Chiefs traveled to Oakland for their first of two meetings with the divisional rival.

The Chiefs spread out the Raiders defense. Tyreek Hill runs straight past his defender in man-to-man coverage.

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The safety takes a terrible angle, and Tyreek Hill scores another easy touchdown, this one for 64 yards.

This next play, in Week 9 against the Cowboys, is just embarrassing football by the defense. The Chiefs smartly dump it downfield to Hill in this non-Hail Mary play and then set up blockers, almost like a punt return (where Hill also excels).

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Moving on to the Chiefs Week 13 match-up with the New York Jets...

This was Matt Nagy’s first game calling offensive plays for the Chiefs. Is it just a coincidence that this was Tyreek Hill’s best game of the season (6 catches, 185 yards, 2 touchdowns, 30.8 average yards per reception)?

It’s another case of Tyreek Hill simply running straight past his defender with no safety help.

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Hill walked in for his longest touchdown of the season, 79 yards.

Later in the same game, Tyreek Hill scored a 40-yard touchdown with a brilliant route. Watch the way Hill starts his route by drifting towards the sideline to force the corner to cheat outside before angling back in with three yards of separation.

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The corner is running right with Hill, but at the same time, he is no where near him because of Hill’s savvy route running. He wins with more than just his speed. Hill has an instinctual understanding of how to work angles in his route stem.

And finally, we conclude with Hill’s final touchdown of the season, a 64-yarder against 2nd-team All Pro Casey Hayward.

The Chiefs line up with 5 wide receivers, including a trips bunch at the top of the screen. The safety lines up over the trips and leaves Casey Hayward all alone.

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Tyreek Hill makes the easy catch for the long touchdown.

This is what the Chiefs do. They spread you out, they run some underneath crossing routes, and they send Tyreek Hill deep because they know he’s too fast and too savvy of a route-runner for the defense.

So how do you stop him?

Well, first off, don’t ask a linebacker to cover him in space. That will usually end poorly for the defense.

And secondly, as a defender, you just have to keep him in front of you. Easier said than done, to be sure, but it is imperative.

Mainly, the Titans have to trust each other on defense. There are a lot of dangerous players to worry about for Kansas City. The players on defense have to trust each other to do their jobs. Whomever is worried about stopping Kareem Hunt can’t be focused on preventing Hill from going deep, and can’t try to take Kelce out of the game.

It’s probably best to shadow him with safety help for the majority of the game. That likely means 1st-team All Pro safety Kevin Byard will be moving back and forth between manning up on Travis Kelce and sitting over the top to double-team Hill.

Tyreek Hill burned the Titans for a 68-yard touchdown run last season (on Kevin Byard’s literal worst play of his so-far excellent career), so they should be well aware of the threat he poses.

The good news match-up-wise is the Titans have been largely among the best teams in the league at limiting “explosive plays” by opposing teams (notice the Chiefs have been one of the worst).

The Titans probably won’t be able to stop all of Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, and Tyreek Hill from making big plays on Saturday.

Hopefully they can limit them enough to come away with the victory.