It was a roller coaster ride of sorts for the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, especially for Mecole Hardman. Hardman’s performance against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship reminded me of the Mamba at Worlds of Fun with the high peaks and the low drops that come with that roller coaster.
Just like the Mamba, Hardman had me yelling to get off this ride when he muffed a punt that directly led to an easy Bills touchdown while almost immediately making up for it on ensuing plays.
I’ve been joking all year that the Chiefs should not put anyone back to return punts since they’ve had a lot of issues this season. The offense is so explosive no matter what field position they are given, but that isn’t the point at hand. The point is this Chiefs team rallied around the young receiver after a costly mistake, and Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes made it their mission to get him involved immediately to not let him get too down on himself. That is what great teams and leaders do.
Hardman responded by scoring a touchdown on the next drive on a beautifully drawn up and executed WR screen. Then, on the ensuing drive, Hardman took a jet sweep 50 yards and turned a spark into a bonfire.
While he only finished the game with 2 receptions for 4 receiving yards, it was his touchdown, the 50-yard run, and the fact that this team didn’t allow him to beat himself up too bad that really stood out. He was drafted to be part of the future, and with a lot of uncertainty at wide receiver after this season, he needs to continue to develop. Having great leaders around him and being in a winning culture only bolsters his chances of success. It also points him toward being a leader when he is the veteran in the locker room.
Mecole Hardman has had a roller coaster start to his career, and this game was no different.
For all of the talk of D.K. Metcalf over Hardman in the 2019 draft, the Chiefs receiver was the one who responded to adversity in the playoffs by persevering and not demanding more targets or yelling at coaches. On a team with a plethora of talent around him, Hardman fits in beautifully. Let’s hope the punt return issues are behind him, but we know if a problem were to arise, Hardman and this team can overcome.