If this is how Travis Kelce plays the week after kind-of, sort-of, pretty-much calling out his coaches the Chiefs should hope he tweets nothing but clock management jokes this week.
Last weekend, Charcandrick West stood on a chair and pleaded with the star tight end to be smart with what he said after a frustrating loss. Kelce listened, mostly, referencing “conservative” play calling before biting his tongue but instead, maybe West should now be that junior-high instigator, fibbing as he glides up to Kelce, and whispers, “Hey, Big Red said you can’t dance.”
Because Kelce just played what is probably the best game of a career already good enough to generally be thought of among the NFL’s best five at his position.
All of these games carry heavy consequences for the Chiefs’ postseason success, and Kelce just helped them win one with career highs of 11 catches and 160 yards, including a touchdown, plus two blocks that cleared room for two other touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 33-10 win over the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
Games like this are why the Chiefs might be the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC, and Kelce is an irreplaceable part of what makes it so.
If Tyreek Hill is the Chiefs’ most dynamic offensive player, the one guy most capable of changing a game every time he touches the ball, then Kelce is their most bankable offensive force — the one guy most capable of wrecking a game plan.
The Chiefs need a win at San Diego and a Raiders loss at Denver on Sunday to win the AFC West. The difference doesn’t determine the Chiefs’ postseason — they are capable of both choking after a first-round bye, and playing their way to the Super Bowl out of a wild-card spot — but it is more important to them than most.
Andy Reid is famously successful after byes — 16-2 in his career — and it would give the guys who’ve filled a busy injury report this year some rest.
The complementary talents of Kelce and Hill are absolutely the best things the Chiefs have on offense. The Chiefs have a Super Bowl-caliber defense — this is a fact, do not @ me — so the balance of Kelce in the middle of the field and Hill around the edges means Kansas City’s best postseason since cigarette ads were banned from television is at least possible.
Kelce is a devastating talent, and we are all now watching him at the height of his powers.
This makes 42 catches and 651 over the last six games, a stretch that covers him being ejected for throwing a towel/flag at a ref, calling out his coaches’ play calling, the wake of his reality show’s season finale, many dances, including a hilarious mocking of Raiders punter Marquette King, and what may or may not be real pictures of him at a bar early Saturday morning (the horror!).
He’s now 141 yards short of Tony Gonzalez’s franchise record for a tight end, and here is a complete list of the wide receivers or running backs to go for more than 100 yards against the Broncos this season:
Travis Kelce four weeks ago in Denver, and Travis Kelce on Sunday in Kansas City.
The case against Kelce has generally been built around concentration, and drive. He’ll have what football people like to call “focus drops” from time to time, and because too many in professional football frown at those who like to have fun, his dancing and occasional unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties and reality TV show have been used to knock him down.
But that’s becoming more and more difficult, because Kelce is making obvious to all what’s long been understood to those who know him even a little bit — Kelce is often at his best in the middle of the storm, even if he helped create the storm.
He is more than a little bit Football Crazy, and sometimes that means living with a penalty or drop, but it is also absolutely what drives so much of his success.
This has always been among Reid’s greatest strengths, to allow players to be themselves while maintaining the boundaries that need maintaining — and Kelce and Marcus Peters have always been the Chiefs who benefited most.
The Chiefs have flaws, which means so many of you reading this now are already nervous about their first playoff game.
They also have strengths, which is why they might be the free world’s best hope for a Super Bowl without the Patriots.
And more and more every week, Kelce is their most consistent strength.