Surely after the damage Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce inflicted on the Texans earlier this year, Houston would be better prepared to stop him.
Instead, Kelce was even more productive in the Chiefs’ 30-0 AFC Wild Card playoff victory on Saturday.
His eight receptions for 128 yards rank with some of the best performances by a Chiefs player in the postseason.
The number of catches tied a team playoff record, and only two Chiefs have exceeded his yardage in a playoff game.
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Kelce couldn’t explain it.
“They’re a very good defense,” he said. “Up front they’re as stout as they come. In the secondary they’ve got some smart players.”
Yet the Alex Smith to Kelce connection burned the Texans’ defense for the second time this season.
Saturday, the duo hooked up for big plays in the first half that resulted in field goals by Cairo Santos with one completion covering 18 yards and the next going for 25.
Their biggest play occurred toward the end of the third quarter when Kelce reached down and grabbed a slightly underthrown Smith offering across the middle. Kelce sidestepped a defender and rumbled 48 yards to set up a Spencer Ware touchdown run that made it 27-0.
Kelce didn’t have a regular-season reception as long as Saturday’s 48-yarder, and his most productive game of the year occurred on the same field in the opener, when he caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a good player,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “We had a plan for him. At times it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. That’s football.”
Kelce’s significance to the offense could grow depending on the health status of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury.
Maclin is the team’s top receiver. Kelce is second, in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
“Hopefully everything comes back OK,” Kelce said of Maclin. “He’s a leader, kind of the coach on the field. He’s a heck of a player, a leader and a brother to us.”
Most receiving yards by a Chief, postseason game
150, Dwayne Bowe, at Indianapolis, Jan. 4, 2014
142, Stephone Paige, at Miami, Jan. 5, 1991
128, Travis Kelce, at Houston, Jan. 9, 2016
117, Otis Taylor, at Oakland, Dec. 22, 1968