Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis is reasonably confident that he won’t be involved in the nightmare scenario Tyreek Hill created the last time Davis faced Kansas City’s All-Pro receiver. Heck, nothing could be much worse than Hill’s 13-catch, 269-yard, three-touchdown explosion in a 27-24 Week 12 win in Tampa on Nov. 29.
"It didn’t work out the first game as far as what we did and our game plan," Davis said this week, "but we’ve corrected it and we’ve got a great game plan going on. But I’m going in with the same mentality, and that’s to dominate."
Hill, of course, has other ideas.
The fifth-year receiver has developed into one of the league’s premier players after being taken in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. He may not expect to record the same kind of gaudy stats he put up when he almost single-handedly beat the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, but he expects to dominate in Super Bowl LV on Sunday.
And if that’s the case again, Hill might be the X-factor in helping Kansas City to a second straight Super Bowl title.
Don’t look for a repeat of the regular-season matchup. In that one, Hill exploded for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter before Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles made adjustments, and the Bucs did a reasonable job of containing him the rest of the way.
But Hill almost certainly will be a difference-maker. Maybe the difference-maker.
He has been terrific in this year’s playoffs, catching eight passes for 110 yards in the divisional-round win over Cleveland and nine more for 172 yards in the AFC Championship Game win over Buffalo. Going back to last year’s Super Bowl win over the 49ers, in which he caught nine passes for 105 yards, Hill has had 100-yard efforts in three straight postseason games.
He’ll likely need another for Kansas City to lay claim to a second straight title. He is the engine of the receiving game, with his speed and quickness giving quarterback Patrick Mahomes a unique target. Hill also is used in the running game on what has become the familiar "jet sweep," in which he sprints in motion and takes a handoff on an end-around.
But it’s his downfield brilliance that sets him apart from almost every other receiver in the league. No, he’s not the prototypical receiver in terms of build; he’s just 5-10, 185 pounds. But defenders constantly struggle trying to keep up with him, especially now that he has become a much more precise route runner and more of a student of the game.
Hill might be the fastest player in today’s NFL, although Bucs receiver Scott Miller has challenged that notion by contending that he could beat him in a race.
Hill playfully suggested that the two race at halftime, but of course, there will be none of that. On Sunday, it’ll be all business in Hill’s latest quest to become a repeat champion.
"He has worked so hard this year and I think we’ve all seen that," coach Andy Reid said. "His dependability and reliability, working hard every day, timing with the quarterback every day . . . That takes a certain amount of toughness and determination to get yourself to that point."
There is work to be done, though, and Hill knows it. The team’s theme all year has been to "run it back" after last year’s Super Bowl win. And while Kansas City is one win away from following through on that mantra, now is not the time to accept compliments about getting to this point.
"This is where legacies are built," Hill said. "You grow up dreaming about this moment right here, making it to the Super Bowl, and here we are going on our second. This is such a tremendous league with tremendous coaches and athletes, and it’s hard. To be able to do this is amazing.
"A lot of people are going to pat us on the back and tell us how great we are."
"But the job isn’t done yet," he said. "That’s our mentality. We’re just sitting here focused. Once the job is done, that’s when guys will pat themselves on the back. Until then, we’re going to continue what we’ve been doing all season."