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Broncos prepare for Chiefs, Tyreek Hill with 'something to prove' after last year


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **In the last two seasons, the Broncos have allowed just three touchdowns that covered more than 65 yards. Kansas City's Tyreek Hill has two of them.

Since the start of the 2016 season, NFL teams have scored 259 touchdowns that covered 40 or more yards in various ways -- via pass, run or various types of returns, including on defense -- according to The Chiefs lead the league with 19 such scores in the last two seasons. Hill alone has eight of them: three punt returns, two runs, two receptions and a kickoff return. No other player has more than five, and Hill's total is greater than that of 14 entire teams in the last two seasons.

And no team knows more about how Hill can slice special teams and defense apart with his dizzying quickness and blurring speed than the Broncos.

A free-kick return of 86 yards in the second quarter of the Broncos' game with the Chiefs last November proved crucial in an overtime win that set them on course for a division title that snapped the Broncos' five-year streak of AFC West championships. A 70-yard run in Week 16 at Arrowhead Stadium was one of two long first-quarter touchdowns that helped the Chiefs burst in front 21-7 en route to a 33-10 romp that knocked Denver out of the postseason.

Now that he's more involved on offense, he can do more than ever. Hill has two 100-yard receiving games this season and is on pace to finish 2017 with over 80 receptions and 1,100 receiving yards.

"Hill is a guy that's tough because he's everywhere," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "He's a slot, he's a 'Z' outside and he's a halfback. That's an issue when you're facing Hill, you're not sure where he's going to be. If you're in man-to-man coverage, you can have a corner in the box fitting the run game. That's the issue with [Hill] not knowing where he's going to line [up]."

But he remains a force on special teams, averaging 11.7 yards per punt return this season.

"He'll catch it in traffic and he'll try to steal it," said Special Teams Coordinator Brock Olivo, who coached Hill with the Chiefs last season. "You can have coverage bearing down on him and the gunners will be in his face and he'll still return it because he has so much confidence in his speed. He also has confidence in the other 10 guys who are blocking for him and vice versa. That is huge."

Hill has 13 punt returns in seven games, an average of 1.86 per game that is down from his pace of 2.44 point returns per game last year. Including fair catches, Hill is fielding 0.65 fewer punts per game than he did in his rookie season.

The Chiefs have fielded 62.5 percent of their punts this year, down from 69.6 percent last year, in part because teams are trying to limit Hill's opportunities when he is on the field.

"People do that all the time to him," Olivo said. "Last year, it happened often. It happens right now."

Sometimes, that isn't an option, and even an intentional punt out of bounds has its risks; such a kick leaves a low margin of error and could result in a short punt if it sails out of bounds too soon.

But that risk could be less than the one posed by the one created when he fields the football. Including the free kick he returned against the Broncos last November, Hill has returned nine punts or free kicks for at least 25 yards apiece -- an average of one every 5.9 returns.

Teams consider everything to contain a weapon like Hill -- even the keep-away option.

"That's something that is in the playbook for a guy like that, no question," Olivo said.

But what Denver's special teams and defense will share is a need to limit the explosive plays through swarming to Hill. If the first man to arrive can only hold Hill up, he must do so just long enough for help to arrive to finish him off and keep the damage to a minimum. That would allow the Broncos to avoid the long sprints that proved costly last year.

"We just have to make sure it's about effort to the ball," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said. "Guys being in the right position, everybody running to the ball and being good tacklers. We talked about being good tacklers in space, no yards after contact. That's what we pride ourselves on doing.

"Last year's game, you look at it and it's like, 'Who are you looking at?' It didn't look like us out there towards the end of the season. The guys are fired up; they watched the tape. I think they have something to prove based on what happened last year."

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