Over and over and over again this season, Tyreek Hill mesmerized and tantalized and exhilarated as he zoomed along with a punt or kickoff return.
Often, he’s only been a tackle or a stride away from going the distance — or just a penalty away, as he was twice after apparent touchdowns.
“A freak of nature,” center Mitch Morse calls Hill, who is listed at 5 feet 10 but stands perhaps 5-7.
And tight end Travis Kelce isn’t wrong when he says Hill could score any time he touches the ball.
“He’s that fast and that electric,” Kelce said.
So the moment was inevitable, really.
But Hill delivered at a particularly pivotal time in the Chiefs’ season on Sunday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
And his 86-yard return on a free kick after a safety was just the start of a breakout game the likes of which has been unseen in the NFL in decades — and one that ultimately enabled the Chiefs to prevail 30-27 in overtime.
When Hill scored on a 3-yard pass from Alex Smith with 1 second left in regulation to allow the Chiefs to tie the Broncos 24-24 with the subsequent two-point conversion, he became the first player since Gale Sayers in 1965 to score touchdowns in the same game on a return, a pass reception and by rushing.
“If the ball comes to me, I’m going to make the play,” said Hill, after lavishing praise on teammates for making that idea possible.
The new dimension the whirlwind fifth-round pick has added to this team has intensified in recent weeks, particularly with the continued absence of top receiver Jeremy Maclin because of a hamstring injury.
And the emergence of Hill, the Chiefs’ second leading scorer behind Cairo Santos and second-leading receiver behind Kelce, has become imperative for a team whose offense largely has otherwise been a dud for weeks.
Hill’s play on Sunday, in fact, served to salve, if not quite mask, the ongoing issues this season, issues that remain a flashing caution light for the Chiefs’ postseason hopes despite all their Super Bowl chatter before the season.
At times on Sunday, the offense looked like a slapstick act, brimming with dropped passes — including a handful by Kelce — sloppy and costly penalties and six sacks of quarterback Alex Smith.
Until the stirring last drive of regulation, which ended with a touchdown when the initial call that Hill was down on the 1-yard line was overturned, they had mustered only one offensive touchdown.
By game’s end, they had 20 in 11 games a mere year after they amassed 39 in 16 games.
And it would be grasping at fool’s gold in a swirl of smoke to think this game changes that concern.
Not that they can’t tweak and tinker and fix some things from here, but a looming worry is Smith.
Since returning from a thumping at Indianapolis that put him through the concussion protocol twice (somehow without a concussion being diagnosed), Smith largely hasn’t been the same quarterback.
Reid seemed to acknowledge as much late Sunday when he said, “Since he’s been back from the hit(s) to the head, things haven’t gone as smooth as they were going prior to.”
Since coming back, Smith’s completion percentage built on short passes looks about the same as ever.
But he hasn’t been the same as ever.
Risk-averse as he is, Smith threw wretched interceptions in each of the previous two games.
On Sunday, he didn’t make such dramatic mistakes but his decision-making was suspect in other ways.
That included throwing well short of first-down distance on third down several times, once when the Chiefs needed only 6 yards and again when they needed 15 … and he threw for 2.
Combine that with the disappearance of his running game, and the talents that make up for his unspectacular style are out of sync.
Smith has denied there were any lingering cobwebs or other head injury concerns after the Colts game — with a smile and offer of thanks for the excuse.
And who’s to say it has anything to do with that other than the coincidental pattern since then?
But it’s hard to know what else is at play with the offense.
You could blame it on the offseason change of offensive coordinators when Doug Pederson left to take over the Philadelphia Eagles.
And, sure, maybe something has been less than seamless in the transition to Brad Childress and Matt Nagy.
Maybe you can rationalize some of this season-long funk by citing injuries, including the hamstring that’s kept receiver Jeremy Maclin out for weeks and the knees that cost offensive lineman Parker Ehinger his rookie year and Jamaal Charles his comeback.
The problem is that when it comes to who’s running the offense, titles aside, the new boss essentially is the same as the old boss: Reid.
And injuries are part of every NFL team’s journey — not to mention that without Charles last season the Chiefs won 10 games in a row and their first playoff game in 22 years.
But time enough to go back to the drawing board this week.
And at least it will be with Smith on an uptick in leading the Chiefs to three straight scores to win the game.
And it will be with an 8-3 record that leaves them a game ahead of Denver and just one back of Oakland in the AFC West.
Because on Sunday the blazing Hill relegated all those anxieties to the back burner.
His combination of world-class speed and power had him on the verge of this all season.
But this was as good a time as any for it to happen at last.
“I mean, you just have to find a crease,” he said, “so I did it.”