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For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl, they’re almost certainly going to have to find a way to contain Tyreek Hill.
They couldn’t have caught him with a super trawler in Week 12.
When the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buccaneers 27-24 two months ago in the only meeting of the season between the Super Bowl combatants, Hill was unstoppable with 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bucs scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, but the feeling was if they did happen to jump out in front, Hill would just take the ball and reclaim the lead.
Called “Cheetah” not because he breaks rules, Hill could be an Olympic sprinter.
He is widely recognized as the fastest player in the NFL.
By everybody but Scotty Miller.
It can be argued that the biggest play in the NFC championship game — the one that, more than any, helped propel Tampa into the Super Bowl — was not made by any of their large, big-name offensive weapons, but the smallest player on the team.
It was the surprising call that led to a highlight involving their 5-foot-11, 174-pound receiver, a sixth-round pick of the 2019 draft who caught 33 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Taking advantage of broken coverage and using his blazing speed, Miller was wide open to pull in a Tom Brady 39-yard TD pass on the final play of the first half.
Instead of leading 14-10 the Bucs took a 21-10 lead into the locker room.
It was a difference-making moment in the 31-26 final.
That play landed Miller an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday.
It was there and then that the 23-year-old made the boldest of proclamations.
Asked if he considers himself the fastest player in the NFL, Miller replied: “Yes sir.”
Fast enough to beat Hill in a one-on-one race?
“I’m taking me, every day of the week,” said Miller. “I’ll take me over anybody. Tyreek is unbelievable, super quick, unbelievable talent. But if we’re talking about a race, I’ve got all the confidence in myself going up against anybody.”
The Weeknd has the Super Bowl halftime show booked, but a Hill-Miller race would be an interesting offseason spectacle.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggested it could even be a pretty good money-raiser for COVID-19 relief.
Miller’s bravado aside, nobody would expect him to cross the finish line first.
“He is a fast dude and he’s a great receiver,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said when Patrick told him about Miller’s claim. “But I like my guy.”
OUT OF THE HUDDLE: Jason Witten is retiring again. This time, probably for good. The 38-year-old tight end gave this a shot for one year (2107), during which he tried his hand as an analyst in the Monday Night Football booth. He returned to the Cowboys, for whom he played 16 of his 17 seasons, then spent the 2020 campaign with the Raiders. Witten plans to sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Cowboys when his deal with the Raiders expires in March. “As I hang it up, I walk away knowing that for 17 seasons I gave it my absolute all,” he told ESPN.com. “I am proud of my accomplishments on the field and the example I tried to set off it.” Witten exits as the fourth leading receiver in NFL history, one slot behind Tony Gonzalez, widely considered the greatest tight end of all-time.
Witten lasted long enough to play 271 games, which is 25th on the all-time list – and one more than any Gonzalez. Coincidence?
SPEAKING OF TIGHT ENDS: In his first year with the Bucs, 31-year-old Rob Gronkowski had a very un-Gronk like season, numbers wise. He was very productive for a normal tight end, with 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 starts. But the only other time he played a full season was 2011, when he was better than twice as good with 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. Since then he’s surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau three other times. Gronkowski, who signed a one-year deal with a $9 million base salary in July, has made it clear he’d like to return to the Bucs next season. And by the sounds of it, the Bucs want that too.
“Man, if you’re having a bad day, I suggest any of you just go spend a little time with Gronk,” GM Jason Licht said Wednesday, per Zack Cox of NESN. “He just lifts you up just by being him. He’s funny. We have conversations every day, and I look forward to it. I told my wife, ‘Can’t wait to go talk to Gronk at practice today.’ He’s just being himself. He’s very authentic. He loves the game and when it’s time to be serious, he’s serious. There’s a lot of talk of what Tom has done of this locker room, and it’s all warranted, but what Gronk has done is equally as amazing. He’s just a great teammate and loves life.”
Gronkowski has just two catches for 43 yards in three playoff games this winter, but don’t be surprised if he emerges as a key figure on Super Sunday. He’s been clutch in the postseason before, with 83 grabs for 1206 yards and 12 touchdowns in 19 starts.
GOING DEEP: Coaching again next season is the plan for Bruce Arians, a cancer survivor who retired as the sideline boss of the Cardinals four years ago because of health concerns and to spend more time with his wife. “Hell no,” the 68-year-old said Wednesday on Tampa radio station WDAE, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, when asked if the Super Bowl would be his final hurrah. “I’m going for two.” With Tom Brady and a very strong roster returning, who could blame him?
EXTRA POINTS: The Seahawks are poised to hire Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron as their OC, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Waldron would be replacing Brian (son of Marty) Schottenheimer, who was fired after three years on the job … The Seahawks are cutting ties with offensive tackle Chad Wheeler, who was arrested for suspicion of domestic violence. The details of his alleged attempt to strangle his girlfriend are disturbing. In a statement, the Seahawks “strongly condemned” his actions, adding: “We encourage Chad to get the help he needs.”
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