Hill proves his toughness, well-roundedness as he battles through injury

Tyreek Hill finished Sunday's game with eight catches for 139 yards, his fifth 100-yard receiving game this season.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tyreek Hill walked off the field holding his wrist Sunday and Kansas City Chiefs fans held their collective breath, only to exhale when their star wide receiver checked back into the game.

They held it again when Hill hobbled to the sideline with a foot injury.

But in a back-and-forth game with significant playoff ramifications, there was no way Hill was going to stay there.

He limped back into the game in time to catch Patrick Mahomes‘ 40-yard heave on fourth-and-long to keep the Chiefs alive, then caught three more passes in overtime — all for first downs — to set the Chiefs up for the eventual winning field goal against Baltimore.

“He’s a fighter,” Mahomes said afterward. “He was hobbled, but you’ve seen this whole season that it’s not just speed now. It’s his route-running, and he knows how to get himself open without speed.”

Oh, the speed is still there. Even after the pain in his foot briefly sent him to the sideline, Hill was still the fastest player on the field the moment he stepped back on it.

But in addition to his toughness, he also showed how well-rounded he’s become this season.

The deep throw from Mahomes was in some ways a wing-and-a-prayer, the kind of ball you throw when you run out of better options. Hill acted like a center fielder as he came back to the ball, tracking it all the way into his hands while a pair of Ravens tried to break it up.

“He’s still fast as all get-out,” Mahomes said, “but just being able to get himself open whenever he is a little bit more limited in that situation, it’s a special thing.”

Hill finished the game with eight catches for 139 yards, his fifth 100-yard receiving game this season. He now has 1,258 yards to match Tony Gonzalez for the fourth-best single season in franchise history, and he needs just 134 yards to pass Derrick Alexander for the record.

That could come as early as Thursday night, when the Chiefs (11-2) try to clinch the AFC West and a first-round playoff bye against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.

“This kid never complains about anything and he practices hard every day,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He was banged up a little bit (against Baltimore) and he worked his way through it, came back and made some big plays for us. You love his attitude. He’s another one that is unique.”

His attitude may have been the biggest question surrounding Hill coming out of college.

He was kicked off the team at Oklahoma State after pleading guilty to domestic assault of his then-pregnant girlfriend. He wound up finishing his college career at West Alabama, and went through counseling and other requirements that convinced the Chiefs to give him a chance.

Hill has rewarded them for it, becoming not only one of the most electrifying players in the NFL, but doing so with a positive attitude that has endeared him to many skeptical fans.

“Just making plays for the team,” he said with a shrug.

Hill also shrugged off any notion that he would have remained out of the game against Baltimore, and he left no doubt that he would be ready for the Chargers. The wrist injury was minor, and the foot was something he was able to play through, and there wasn’t a whole lot more to say.

“I was always taught, no matter the circumstances, these are my brothers,” he said, “and they would do the same thing for me.”

Notes: OL Cam Erving (knee), WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and RB Spencer Ware (hamstring) did not practice Tuesday. … Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton declined to confirm whether safety Eric Berry would make his season debut Thursday night, but he did sound as if it’s possible. “A lot of times a guy that has missed a lot of time, you have to be careful,” he said. “They don’t usually want to come out.” … Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said it’s likely WR Kelvin Benjamin would make his Chiefs debut after signing late last week. “We’re bringing him along slowly,” Bieniemy said, “but we want him to see the entire package and understand the entire package.”