Travis Kelce got directly involved in the Chiefs’ 29-28 triumph on their second snap, a 21-yard reception from Alex Smith, and his contributions didn’t end until he reached the team’s record book.
Kelce, the fourth-year tight end, enjoyed one of the most productive games of his career, with eight receptions for 140 yards on a run-free kind of afternoon.
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The number of catches matched a career best. His yardage bested his previous high as a pro of 128, set against Houston in last year’s playoffs. And although he didn’t get into the end zone, Kelce was a major factor in the offense’s success.
“We isolated him a lot, and he just continued to make plays for us,” Smith said. “He was so good after the catch. For a big guy to have the kind of vision he does.”
On the first reception, Kelce went high in traffic. On the team’s next snap, Smith found Kelce again, a deep ball down the sideline that went for 35 yards.
One play later, Spencer Ware angled in from the 3 and the Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time this season.
Kelce was just getting started. By halftime, he had 99 yards worth of receptions and was well on his way to his third straight 100-yard receiving day. He’d never had successive games of 100 yards before this stretch.
The last NFL tight end with three straight 100-yard days was Jimmy Graham with the Saints in 2013. Kelce is the first Chiefs player at any position to accomplish the feat since wide receiver Dwayne Bowe in 2010.
Kelce is on a roll, leading the team with 63 receptions and 815 yards. With four games remaining, his first 1,000-yard season is in sight.
Not that he’s looking.
“I never anticipate having a big day,” Kelce said. “I just go out there and it happens. Me and Alex were on the same page. He was lights-out when it came to getting the ball in my hands, or anybody’s hands at this point.”
Indeed, Smith completed 21 of 25 passes for 270 yards. He tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to Ware on a fourth-and-1, and by hitting 84 percent of his passes, Smith now has the top five most accurate days in Chiefs history.
Sunday’s production included a streak of 15 straight completions, which matches the Chiefs’ record that Len Dawson established in 1967 and Smith also accomplished in October at Oakland.
With all the production and efficiency, the Chiefs needed to come up with some big plays at the end after taking possession following Eric Berry’s 99-yard return of an intercepted two-point conversion with 4:24 remaining.
A one-point lead was tenuous, and Falcons kicker Matt Bryant had already boomed a 59-yarder. Atlanta was down to one timeout, meaning the Chiefs needed two first downs to clinch the victory. Kelce’s 14-yard catch on a drag across the middle produced the first.
When the Chiefs faced a third-and-6, Kelce found himself doubl- teamed. So Smith hit Albert Wilson for a 10-yard game-clinching completion.
Kelce’s big game, perhaps his biggest, was complete.