Tyreek Hill has missed one game in his NFL career, and it wasn’t an injury scratch. He sat out the season finale in 2017, as did other Chiefs veterans. The team had already clinched a playoff spot.
Hill has been remarkably durable for a wide receiver who stands 5-foot-10, 185 pounds and touches the ball as often as he does.
But the prospect of missing games looms now. Hill spent the second half of Sunday’s 40-26 Chiefs victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville with a shoulder injury after being hit by Jags cornerback Jaylen Ramsey on an 8-yard reception.
Hill was diagnosed with a sternoclavicular joint injury where the clavicle meets the sternum, said Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder. He was treated by an ortho-trauma doctor; the goal, Burkholder said, was to “reduce the dislocation or the injury.”
The timetable for his return is unknown. But if the Chiefs have to carry on without Hill, who set a team record with 1,479 receiving yards and made it to his third Pro Bowl last year, they appear well equipped.
“For sure it’s gonna hurt us,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “But I think we have the group of guys and the coaches and staff to continue to have the game plan. I think when we get back, we’ll play for him. But when he gets back, I think we’ll still be that successful team.”
Hill left the game late in the first quarter. On the next play, Patrick Mahomes spotted a wide-open Watkins for a 49-yard touchdown pass — their second of three Mahomes-to-Watkins TD connections on Sunday.
Watkins finished with a career-best 198 receiving yards, the sixth most for a game in Chiefs history. And Mahomes’ first two passes to tight end Travis Kelce went for 42 and 41 yards, respectively.
Running back LeSean McCoy, who was released by the Buffalo Bills nine days earlier, led the Chiefs with 81 rushing yards.
The Chiefs led the NFL in yards and points last season and look ready to repeat the feat. Same with Mahomes, who played half of the game on a sprained ankle but finished 25 of 33 for 378 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Even with the injuries, the Chiefs kept rolling. And the team that had difficultly generating offense against the Jaguars last season at Arrowhead Stadium never let up at TIAA Bank Field.
The Chiefs scored on their first seven possessions. By the time Dustin Colquitt saw the field for a punt, he had already held for four extra points and three field goals.
Mahomes was at his best. His 143.2 passer rating was the second best of his career, topped only by his effort in Pittsburgh last season.
Kelce said in the preseason that the “sky’s the limit” for this offense, and Sunday’s performance provided an superb example. The bigger unknown was the defense, and although there are issues to solve, the unit earned a passing grade against Jacksonville.
Its best accomplishment was creating two turnovers: a strip by linebacker Damien Wilson on a short pass to Leonard Fournette that cornerback Bashaud Breeland scooped, and an interception by Frank Clark on a deflected pass.
The first takeaway was a pivotal moment. Although the Chiefs were leading by 10 and dominating the game statistically, the Jags had the ball in Kansas City territory. A score by the Jaguars would’ve keep the pressure on.
“Huge play to begin that third quarter,” Andy Reid said. “We needed that.”
Jacksonville got bad break when quarterback Nick Foles, on his wonderfully placed 35-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark Jr., was hit hard by Chris Jones and suffered a shoulder injury that will force him to miss extended time. Foles, a former backup with the Chiefs, was asked after the game if he believed the hit was excessive.
“Chris Jones was my teammate in KC and I know he’d never want to do that,” Foles said. “It was probably just one of those things — it was just unfortunate it happened. I landed on it wrong, and it happens in this sport. We’ll keep moving forward. Chris is a tremendous player and I gave him a hug after the game.”
Not every exchange between the teams was amicable. Jags linebacker Myles Jack was ejected and Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and running back Damien Williams were assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after a second-quarter dust-up.
Even with a solid defense, Jacksonville could not afford to lose any players. The Chiefs? They were down a key contributor and didn’t miss a beat.