Travis Kelce provided a happy and familiar site for Chiefs fans, hauling in a scoring pass for his team’s second touchdown and crafting an end zone dance that found plenty of approval on social media in the team’s 29-19 victory over the Broncos on Monday.
But a scary moment was added to the picture late in the first half.
Kelce hobbled off the field with an apparent injury to his left ankle. He went to the bench and was checked out by team trainer Rick Burkholder.
When the teams left the field for halftime, Kelce’s status was unknown. But the Chiefs received the second-half kickoff and there he was, trotting out with the offense.
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Kelce had no doubt he would return.
“I just had to let it calm down, get it rubbed down a little a bit by the trainers, and sure enough I was back out there,” Kelce said.
The Chiefs needed him. On a night when the offense produced 276 total yards, Kelce’s seven receptions accounted for 133 of them.
He had strong first half with five receptions for 89 yards and the touchdown, where after making a move at the line he worked free near the right sideline.
Kelce was well behind Broncos safety Darian Stewart, hauled in the ball at the 5 and coasted in for his fourth touchdown of the season.
Then came the celebration, which ranked high for creativity, and didn’t earn a penalty like Marcus Peters’ — who was whistled when he dunked the football over the goal post after his return of a Jamaal Charles fumble for a touchdown.
Kelce said the move was for his alma mater, “for everybody back in Cincinnati, UC, the Bearcats” Kelce said.
Kelce also came up big on a second-half drive that produced a field goal and restored a two-score lead for KC. He went up high to snare an 11-yard reception on third-and-5, and his 26-yard catch got the Chiefs in field goal range, where Harrison Butker’s 43-yarder made it 23-13 with 12:30 remaining.
The Smith-Kelce connection — plus Butker’s five field goals — was the best part of the Chiefs’ offense on a night when the Broncos’ physical front contained Kareem Hunt and the running game.
“I want the ball every single play,” Kelce said. “That’s how I grew up playing.”
Tight end Ross Travis was the intended receiver on another pass to the end zone that never got to him. The Chiefs led 14-0 when they drove to the 9. On second and goal, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, lining up in the backfield, took a pitch from Smith and headed left.
Instead of accelerating and eventually turning the corner, Hill slowed, adjusted the ball in his hands and telegraphed his move. The left-handed Hill then woefully underthrew Kelce and Stewart had an easy interception in the end zone.
In the first passing attempt of his two-year career, Hill had tossed the Chiefs’ first interception of the season and committed the team’s first turnover since the opener, when running back Kareem Hunt fumbled away the Chiefs’ first snap of the game.
The Chiefs not only failed to take a three-score lead in the first quarter, the Broncos seemed energized by their fortune. They drove 71 yards on 13 plays on a drive that ended with a Brandon McManus field goal.
Hill thought the perfect play was called, but poorly executed.
“I was looking forward to it all week, and it was an interception,” Hill said. “It was pretty bad."