Dontari Poe knows way to end zone
Hungry Pig Right.
This is a chaotic and violent way to make a living. The only way to thrive is complete focus. But those three words are guaranteed to make a particular group of professional football players snap out of the trance, even for a second, to smile, and mumble some version of (expletive) yeah!
Hungry. Pig. Right.
The perfect name of the amazing play that will be watched thousands of times and maybe more was a combination of creativity, freakish athleticism, two weeks to plan and one remarkable risk on a rainy day and slippery field that highlighted the Chiefs’ best performance of the year so far — a 26-10 win over the Raiders here on Sunday that remade the AFC West standings.
You know, just your typical call, with 346-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe lining up as a fullback, then motioning out as a receiver in a bunch formation, taking a lateral pass and running behind three teammates into the end zone.
“Savage,” tight end James O’Shaughnessy said.
“We finally got Big Red to call it in the red zone,” said Travis Kelce, the star tight end and the man Poe replaced for the play.
“Play your percentages,” Poe said. “It’s 100 percent. So just give it to me.”
Let’s start with Poe. Because even with coach Andy Reid’s obsession with bizarre screen passes — you can imagine calling one for a nose tackle on his bucket list, right below eating a double cheeseburger on the space shuttle — this could not and would not happen without a man who weighs more than twice as much as the average American man but is still somehow more athletic than nearly all of them.
Poe was already the heaviest man to ever score an offensive touchdown. That happened last year, when he took a handoff and jumped over the goal line. You remember that, right? He jumped. The man weighs 11 pounds more than The Fridge did in 1985 but still has a 29 1/2 -inch vertical leap — better than more than half the players at the most recent NBA scouting combine.
So with a science fiction creation of a nose tackle, and a head coach who’s never met a screen pass he wouldn’t call, maybe this was all just a matter of time.
But it was still a hell of a lot of fun.
They practice it regularly. Poe said they’ve run it a hundred times, and he’s almost certainly exaggerating, but various players said it’s run at least twice each week that it’s in the game plan — and that it’s been in the game plan quite often.
Looked through a certain lens, the play is something like a cheat code for a video game. After the touchdown last year, teams know the Chiefs might use Poe as a fullback, and might even give him the ball. But motioning him out to the right, and putting him behind a fullback (Anthony Sherman), a tight end (Demetrius Harris), and an offensive lineman (Zach Fulton) is like being run over by a truck — a big, fast, dreadlocked truck — you never saw coming from behind the line of bushes.
Once Hungry Pig Right is live, there is virtually nothing the defense can do. Alex Smith takes the snap, pivots, and the ball is in Poe’s hands in one second, maybe less. He takes two steps before the first contact, then two more through the contact, and by then it’s just a matter of clearing off the bodies on top of him and letting the big man celebrate.
“Get your playmakers the ball,” Sherman said, smiling.
“Soon as they shifted it out, I knew it was happening, and I knew he’d get it,” defensive lineman Jaye Howard said.
The play, apparently, has never not worked in practice, and even as that’s against the scout team, and even as the players may be “forgetting,” calling it in this game and in this moment represented a significant risk.
Because no matter how many times it’s repped in practice, and no matter how athletic Poe is, you’re still throwing the ball across the field to a nose guard. What’s more, the ball traveled backward — officially, it’s a rushing touchdown, not a pass — so a drop would’ve been a fumble. Rain had been falling all day, and the field was a virtual mud-pit.
Turn it over there, or even settle for a field goal after getting too cute, and you give the home team energy and the head coach has to answer questions about why he threw a pass to a nose guard from inside the 1 with two of the game’s better running backs, who were mostly having their way against one of the league’s worst rush defenses.
Instead, Reid is making jokes about “chubby guys,” and talking about perhaps the single biggest momentum swing in a game that pulled the Chiefs within a half-game of the Broncos and Raiders in the division.
“He’s got phenomenal hands,” Reid said. “I know that’s tough to say about a nose guard, but he’s got phenomenal hands.”
Poe was more direct, and said he’s never dropped a pass in practice. There’s a reason he tends to crowd the offensive coaches when the team is in the red zone, in his words, telling them, Nine-two right here, I’m ready.
“It ain’t risky,” Poe said. “We practice it all the time. Practice makes perfect.”
The play wasn’t the only reason the Chiefs won, or even the biggest reason. Alex Smith was ruthlessly efficient, playing by far his best complete game of the season. The Chiefs ran the ball consistently, and Reid’s play-calling kept the Raiders off balance. The defense gave up just three points after the Raiders’ first drive, holding what had been the league’s fifth-highest-scoring team to its worst output of the season.
But Hungry Pig Right was the most fun play, the one you’re most likely to remember, and the one that lifted the Chiefs in a game they almost certainly needed to have.
Not just the professional football players. Hungry. Pig. Right. Makes you smile, too, doesn’t it?
“Hell yeah,” Kelce said. “Hell, yeah.”