In a previous life, maybe at the pee-wee or prep level, a first half such as the one Carlton Davis experienced Sunday might have caused a psychological fracture unlikely to mend for years.
But as a 23-year-old professional thrust into a mostly unwinnable — and some say unfair — situation against Chiefs resident speed merchant Tyreek Hill, the third-year Bucs cornerback’s peers and coaches expect him to rebound swiftly and surely.
“I don’t think he’ll ever lose any confidence,” coach Bruce Arians said Monday. “He’s one of those guys who goes to the next play.”
For reasons still not fully clear, the Bucs initially put Davis in tight man coverage on Hill, who got behind him for touchdown catches of 75 and 44 yards in the first quarter. On both plays, safety help was late in arriving.
For the game, Hill, whose 40-yard dash time (sub-4.3 seconds) has been well chronicled, caught all nine of the passes thrown his way for 211 yards, three touchdowns and six first downs when defended by Davis, according to Pro Football Focus. (All told, Hill had 13 catches for 269 yards.)
But on Monday, Arians credited quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ precision as much as Hill’s fleetness for the Chiefs’ early explosion in their 27-24 triumph.
“I don’t care who’s covering Tyreek Hill,” Arians said. “You can’t defend a great throw.”
Things stabilized for Davis and his defense when the Bucs reverted to more of a Cover-Two look and pressured Mahomes, holding the Chiefs to a touchdown over the final three quarters. Davis even finished with a pair of pass deflections.
“Tyreek Hill is one of the best guys in football,” Bucs linebacker Devin White said after the game. “I just feel like we’ve got to do a better job of protecting our brother when there’s something going on. But at the end of the day, 10 times out of 10, I’m going to choose (No.) 24 (Davis).”