Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill tastes frigid defeat in his long-awaited return to Kansas City

Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill tastes frigid defeat in his long-awaited return to Kansas City

So much for Tyreek Hill’s triumphant return to Kansas City.

The All-Pro wide receiver, who became a star for the Chiefs before he was traded to Miami, had a long touchdown catch for the Dolphins but was otherwise shut down Saturday night as Kansas City rolled to a 26-7 victory in their wild-card playoff game.

Hill finished with five catches for 62 yards — and nearly all of it came on that 53-yard pass, when he adjusted beautifully to a ball badly underthrown by Tua Tagovailoa. Hill fought through pass interference on All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie, made the grab and ran into the end zone, just as he did so many times while wearing a red Chiefs jersey.

The outcome wasn’t fun, though.

Patrick Mahomes, who spent six seasons throwing passes to Hill, kept finding new favorite wide receiver Rashee Rice and his longtime security blanket, Travis Kelce. And what quietly became the league’s No. 2 defense this season shut down Hill, fellow wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and the rest of a Miami offense that led the NFL in yards during the regular season.

Tagovailoa had just 199 yards passing with an interception, and Miami was held to 264 yards as a team.

“It’s tough, especially with the type of team we’ve got,” Hill said. “Obviously there were high expectations of everyone, and we hold ourselves to a standard. We were definitely expecting to be a really good team this year. Definitely wasn’t expecting a first-round exit. The message in the locker room was real simple: Whenever you’re working out, take this loss with you. Remember this feeling, because it’s not fun, man, being on the other side of a loss.

Indeed, it was a difficult finish to a season in which Hill shattered the Dolphins record with an NFL-best 1,799 yards receiving.

Just over a week ago, he had to rush home from practice as firefighters doused the roof of his burning South Florida home. It turned out the fire, which was started by a child playing with a cigarette lighter in a bedroom, had caused so much damage to his $6.9 million home that Hill remains unsure whether he will be able to move back in.

The Dolphins proceeded to lose to Buffalo in their regular-season finale, costing them not only the AFC East but also the opportunity to host a home playoff game. Instead of playing in balmy Miami on Saturday, where the temperature was 69 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff, they were stuck playing in Kansas City in the fourth-coldest game in NFL history.

The cold weather itself didn’t seem to bother Hill too much. He joked about it walking into Arrowhead Stadium, and then headed to the field about an hour later wearing a grey short-sleeve T-shirt for warmups.

“It wasn’t a factor at all,” Hill insisted. “Guys weren’t even paying attention to it.”

It sure seemed to freeze the high-flying Miami offense. It went 1 for 12 on third down, rarely put together a sustained drive and ultimately did nothing to support a defense that had been battered by injuries yet kept the Dolphins in the game.

“Where they pressured,” Tagovailoa said, “they had a good plan and they executed well against us.”

The Chiefs also were physical with Hill and the rest of the Miami wide receivers, knocking them off their routes and disrupting their timing. On one play, Kansas City cornerback L’Jarius Sneed jammed Hill so hard that he ended up on his backside.

In the end, the Dolphins were left looking back on a season that was derailed by injuries and inconsistency down the stretch, and one that left them still chasing their first playoff victory since Dec. 30, 2000, when they beat Indianapolis.

“It takes a certain mentality to compete in games like this,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I think the team was very competitive for the majority of the game. They had the prerequisite physicality. They didn’t tune it down. Guys were excited. You have to kind of go to a different place, and I thought our guys were in a good spot.”