<
>

Broncos can't be tempted by 'eye candy' of the Chiefs

play
Berry: Fant is going to be a trendy sleeper next year (0:48)

Field Yates comments on how Noah Fant has looked the part of an athletic tight end, and Matthew Berry forecasts the Broncos TE as a trendy sleeper for next season. (0:48)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid turns ideas into plays, there is always camouflage woven into the plan.

Before the ball is snapped, wide receiver Tyreek Hill might go right to left across the formation, or he might go left to right. Hill might just move a few steps and then get lined up again.

Or tight end Travis Kelce might go in motion once, or twice, before a play. Sammy Watkins might move one play, fellow wide receiver Mecole Hardman the next. Or all of the above.

And the formation the defense is faced with at the snap is nothing like the one it was looking at just a few seconds before Reid's shape-shifting plan came to life.

"Man, you can't look at all that -- he wants you to look at all that," said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., as Denver prepares for its annual trip to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). "You have to play your assignment and understand where the ball is going to go and what they want to get to. Not where they started when they lined up. Everybody kind of does it now, but the Chiefs do it more and they have Tyreek Hill."

What Reid does has often been dubbed "eye candy" by some defensive coordinators, "window dressing" by some others and just an all-around "pain in the ass" by those who have planned against him through the years.

The Chiefs are certainly not alone these days with jet motion, run-pass options and three- and four-wide receiver sets. But many defensive coaches say Reid is simply willing to try more things before the snap to get defenders to either look in the wrong place or to get the matchup he wants for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. There are times Reid will use much of the offense's time at the line of scrimmage to simply rearrange most of the pass-catchers from one side of the formation to the other.

"These guys are very multiple," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "They have versatile players -- they've got a bunch of guys who can align anywhere in their formation and do good things from those alignments.

"He's looking for mismatches. He's looking to make it hard to give special attention to a particular player, too. Just to get you back on your heels a little bit before the ball is snapped."

Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale, a former Broncos assistant coach, once described the Chiefs' offense as "lethal" and offered, "If they know what you're in, they will slaughter you."

The Broncos know the feeling. Since the start of the 2016 season, the Chiefs have scored at least 27 points in all seven meetings with the Broncos -- all Kansas City victories. They've scored at least 30 points in four of those games, including a 30-6 win over Denver in October.

Much of the pre-snap movement these days is to find a way to get Hill some room to run or to get him on the defenders Reid wants to match him against. In the Broncos' October loss, Hill was running with no one in pursuit on his 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Harris said it was a route "they hadn't really shown before."

"Honestly, there's been some fast guys, but I do think [Hill is] the fastest that I've seen in my time," said Fangio, who has coached in the NFL for 30 years. "And he's very athletic. He's not just a straight-line track guy fast; he can change direction, real quick, great runner after the catch. ... This guy is definitely the fastest, and the only guy who comes close, and he wasn't a receiver, was Bo Jackson, coaching against him. Deion [Sanders], too. Those three names tell you fast."

Combine that speed with what Reid does pre-snap, and the Chiefs take it to the "next level," as Harris has said. The pre-snap motion can give Mahomes a glimpse of the coverage he's getting when a defender follows a specific receiver or not. The vast collection of movements, mis-directions and camouflages tests a defense's discipline and tries its patience.

"They're a tough assignment," Fangio said. "That's why they're really good."