As he attempted to dissect the cause for the Chiefs’ second-half offensive struggles, lineman Mitchell Schwartz eventually settled on an old phrase. “A tale of two halves,” he called it.
Equally apt: a tale of an offense playing with and without tight end Travis Kelce.
Kelce was forced out of the Chiefs’ 22-21 playoff loss in the second quarter on Saturday after taking a crushing helmet-to-helmet hit from Tennessee Titans safety Johnathan Cyprien. Kelce was diagnosed with a concussion and did not return.
Teammate Albert Wilson helped Kelce to his feet after the hit. Kelce took a couple of wobbly steps before leaning into the arms of Schwartz to maintain his balance.
Kelce eventually jogged to the sideline and waved to the crowd, but he was escorted to the locker room. Cyprien was not flagged on the play.
Later in the drive, the Chiefs marched down the field and scored a touchdown to put the final touches on a 21-3 halftime advantage. But that’s all the success they found with Kelce absent from the field. The Chiefs did not score in the second half.
“We have a player down, and I just expect the next guy to step up and go,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s how we’ve done it here, and we’ve been successful with it. It didn’t work out in our favor tonight.”
Kelce was a major factor in the Chiefs’ 21-3 halftime lead. He caught four passes for 66 yards and had a touchdown.
On what changed in the offense in the second half, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said, “A few things — obviously (losing) Kelce hurts, a player of his caliber, not having him out there.”
Smith passed for just 33 yards over the final two quarters. But he settled on other reasons, as well. Third-down conversions were mentioned. Schwartz added a few more, including the blocking up front.
“Obviously you’d love to have (Kelce) out there, but I don’t wanna say that’s the reason (for the loss), because he doesn’t affect how I block or how the o-line blocks,” Schwartz said.
It was a sour ending to an otherwise decorated season for Kelce. He set a career-high with eight touchdown catches. He fell just short of career-best marks with 83 catches and 1,038 yards.