The San Francisco 49ers learned the hard way in Week 3 what can happen when the ball is returned to Aaron Rodgers with time running out and the game on the line, but it turns out they were concerned about more than just the NFL’s reigning MVP in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
With 37 seconds left on the clock in last Sunday’s game, the Niners chose to kick their subsequent kickoff into the end zone and take a touchback rather than try to force the Packers to waste time with a kickoff return. The decision to play it safe, according to Niners special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, was a direct result of their scouting of Packers rookie Kylil Hill and their “respect” for his abilities as a kick returner. On September 29, Hightower said, “We have a lot of respect for Hill.” “The week before (against Detroit), he had a 41-yard big return, explosive return where he got those guys to like the 56-yard line or something like that. Aaron only had half a field to work with, and they went down and scored. So, basically, we have a lot of respect for the guy and want to make them go longer than they have to. ”
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. Hill’s Return Skills Are Being Noticed
Hill’s Return Skills Are Being Noticed
Hill has made his presence felt on special teams through the first three weeks of his rookie season. While he hasn’t had much of a role in the Packers’ backfield with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, the 2021 seventh-round pick has shown flashes of being a legitimate return weapon with five kickoff returns averaging 22 yards. Hill’s longest return of the season — the 41-yarder mentioned by Hightower — also helped the Packers gain momentum in their Week 2 victory over the Lions. He eluded a few tackles and made it all the way up to the Packers’ 44-yard line, which the Niners were keen to avoid at all costs.
“It’s something we talk about during the week,” Hightower said. “We’ve got it long before we get to the actual play.” When it comes down to it, you try to do as many of those scenarios and situations as possible. After all, that kid has broken so many tackles and done such a good job, in our opinion, that we didn’t want to give him the chance to give our defense a short field there. ”
Packers Still See Hill as a ‘Work in Progress’
It’s impressive enough that the Packers have a seventh-round rookie finding ways to contribute on a weekly basis. Hill showed glimpses of his potential in the preseason, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded rookie running back with 104 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. Despite Hill’s early success, the Packers aren’t planning on getting ahead of themselves in the return game. After the Packers’ Week 2 win over the Lions, special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton said, “He is a work in progress.” “We still have a long way to go, but he’s doing a fantastic job.” We felt like we could build around his skill set of vision, being able to press and get vertical after watching his college tape and seeing how he processes things and reads blocks. Clean Bowled News