KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The name of Kansas City Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill cut through the winter chill in the air, as a near-capacity crowd chanted the first name of the dynamic speedster in anticipation on a punt return, and the blossoming star did not disappoint in the team’s 21-13 win over the Oakland Raiders Thursday night.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like what happened tonight,” quarterback Alex Smith said.
Hill on cue received the punt from and zipped 78 yards down field for a touchdown. That score along with a 36-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Alex Smith to Hill helped the Chiefs build a 21-3 lead they would never relinquish.
“It was crazy,” Hill said. “I didn’t know what to think. I was able to give them what they wanted I guess.”
The win vaulted Kansas City into first place in the AFC West. Both teams share a 10-3 record, but the Chiefs lead the division by virtue of their head-to-head sweep of the Raiders this season.
The win also boosts the Chiefs to the second-best record in the AFC. That puts the team in position to secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs with three games remaining.
Smith led an efficient passing attack in the first half, completing 11-of-16 passing for 202 yards and a touchdown. But two Smith turnovers in the third quarter slowed the Chiefs offense in the second half.
Tight end Travis Kelce caught five passes for 101 yards, giving him his fourth-straight 100-yard receiving game. That ties the franchise record set by Tony Gonzalez during the 2000 season.
Kelce admired Gonzalez growing up as a young football player.
“I’m fortunate enough to have his number in my phone and I try to text him every now and then when I need advice,” Kelce said. “He’s the man. To be in company with him, it means a lot.”
Hill finished the game with six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. The punt return for a touchdown makes Hill the first NFL rookie with a touchdown score on a rush, pass, kick return and punt return in the Super Bowl era.
The rookie appears poised to tie or break several team records for first-year receivers. He tied the team’s rookie record for touchdown catches in a season with six. His 56 receptions trail only the 70 catches posted by Dwayne Bowe in his rookie campaign.
The confident Hill remains unfazed by his early success.
“I put the work in this offseason with Jeremy Maclin and some of our teammates,” Maclin said. “They’ve taught me some of the ropes, and it’s all starting to fall in place.”
Coach Andy Reid said he remains proud of how Hill continues to progress off the field. The Chiefs absorbed a wave of criticism with the selection of Hill in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft in April. Hill remains on probation following a guilty plea from a domestic abuse charge in December 2014 while a student at Oklahoma State University.
“He’s trying to right a wrong,” Reid said. “It’s hard because it’s something that he’s not real proud of. He’s doing the right things and trying to do the right things here now.”
The only bad news on the night for the Chiefs came with the loss of linebacker Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs veteran defensive leader left the game late in the first half with a ruptured Achilles tendon in his left foot.
Johnson missed most of the 2014 seasons after rupturing the Achilles tendon in his right foot.
Reid said he felt the defensive let down a bit after Johnson’s injury. He credited veterans Justin Houston and Eric Berry with helping to rally the defense together.
“The thing that they were saying is that it would be the last thing that DJ would want, really, is a letdown,” Reid said. “He’s such a big part of our team, but they guys rallied. The defense played phenomenal football that second half.”
Houston pointed toward his own absence through the first half of the season as evidence of the team’s ability to withstand key injuries.
“I’m going to pray for him and hope he stays strong,” Houston said. “I know he’ll stay strong, but the next guy’s got to be prepared.”
Defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches knotched his first sack of his career with help from Justin Houston, but later left the game with back spasms. Fellow defensive lineman Kendall Reyes left the game with a wrist sprain. Reid said Reyes would have X-rays to determine the extent of the injury.