Kansas Metropolis Chiefs tight finish Travis Kelce has been round this league for a really very long time. He was drafted in 2013 and is nearly to cap off his age-34 season with what could possibly be his third Tremendous Bowl victory this coming Sunday. All eyes can be on Kelce throughout Tremendous Bowl LVIII, and never simply due to his well-known girlfriend.
From basically his sophomore season in 2014 (he missed all however one snap in 2013 as a result of harm), Kelce has been probably the most prolific and productive tight ends within the NFL. Even earlier than All-World quarterback Patrick Mahomes was throwing him the soccer, Kelce was nonetheless averaging 954 yards by means of his first three full seasons. However as soon as Andy Reid chosen Mahomes, Kelce went on to interrupt the 1,000-yard threshold yearly from 2017-2022. This season, he fell quick by simply 16 yards after lacking a pair of video games.
For some other tight finish, his dip in manufacturing would probably signify the start of the tip. The Chiefs offense was not its common self in 2023 and Kelce did common a career-low 10.6 yards per reception. For added context, it’s truly the primary time he’s completed beneath 12.0.
So for what it’s value, you had been most likely considerably justified in believing Kelce was on the downturn this season. However then the playoffs arrived and the veteran has since gone on one in every of his finest postseason runs of his storied profession. By means of three video games, Kelce has 23 receptions for 262 yards and three touchdowns. All three scores have been huge for the Chiefs and I don’t suppose they’d have made it to their second consecutive Tremendous Bowl with out them.
So whereas there’s many within the league who wish to see Kelce and the Chiefs lastly fall off after so a few years of dominance, this outdated canine nonetheless is aware of precisely the way to win when it issues most.
Beneath, I broke down the masterful effort and nuance that Kelce confirmed en path to discovering the tip zone 3 times this postseason and why they present that he’s not solely nonetheless the most effective tight finish within the league, however why he could be coming near incomes G.O.A.T. standing at his place.
1.) The three-yard rating vs. the Payments to place the Chiefs up 20-17 within the third quarter
Whereas not the favourite of my three on this checklist, Kelce’s second landing towards the Payments was a masterful efficiency in nuance, particular person effort, and sheer energy of will to seek out the tip zone on the highway towards an opponent that has turn into one in every of Kansas Metropolis’s greatest rivals with within the AFC.
With the ball on the three-yard line, the Chiefs lined up in a three-tight finish formation with all three linked to one another on the left facet. To the best was a wideout Rashee Rice by his lonesome and working again Clyde Edwards-Helaire within the backfield.
On the snap, Mahomes turns to his proper to point out a run look to CEH. This didn’t affect the protection all that a lot other than these lined up exterior the field to the offense’s proper. They needed to respect CEH’s path within the backfield.
However with the backfield motion going proper, the offensive line and trio of tight ends took their steps to the left. After about three paces of motion, Kelce sticks his foot within the floor and comes again in direction of Mahomes who rockets a cross into his chest. With fellow tight ends Noah Grey and Blake Bell now organising blocks in entrance of him, Kelce rode his huge wave of blockers in direction of the entrance left pylon.
Earlier than absolutely committing to the skin, Kelce took a tough jab step up the sphere between Bell and his left sort out. This small motion received a number of Payments defenders to decide to that hole which then allowed Kelce to bounce again exterior as Grey and Bell sealed the sting. His teammates did simply sufficient to permit Kelce to bowl over everybody en route to creating it simply contained in the pylon earlier than touchdown out of bounds.
An informal fan isn’t going to note all of the little particulars a few scoring play that went for 3 yards, however those that problem themselves to look a bit tougher will be capable of discover a wealth of element and nuance on this play. If Kelce merely caught the ball and tried to dive straight ahead in hopes of dashing the rating, he would probably have been stopped. However no, Kelce has been round lengthy sufficient and know precisely the way to each use his teammates whereas additionally influencing the gamers on the opposite facet of the road.
That is what actually units him aside from nearly each different tight within the NFL at present.
2.) His again shoulder fade towards All-Professional Ravens security Kyle Hamilton within the AFC Championship Sport
Regardless of being solely a second-year participant, Ravens security Kyle Hamilton was named a First-Group All-Professional after a season by which he completely stuffed the stat sheet. His breakout season was key within the Ravens turning into the league’s primary protection in factors allowed, sacks, and interceptions in 2023.
However on the Chiefs’ first landing of the sport, Kelce confirmed that it doesn’t matter how older he appears to previous these new younger stars, he nonetheless has loads of elite methods up his sleeve.
The Chiefs lined up in a 2×2 set with two receivers in a detailed flex to the left and each Kelce and tight finish Noah Grey linked on the best.
Hamilton strains up about 5 yards off the ball in entrance of Kelce. On the snap, Kelce takes an out of doors arc launch earlier than stemming vertical into Hamilton. Earlier than Kelce will get as much as Hamilton’s stage, he takes a jab step exterior with a head faux in hopes of getting Hamilton to chunk earlier than as soon as once more pushing vertical up the best sideline. Primarily an out-and-up route with a bit extra nuance from the artful veteran.
The loopy factor right here is that Hamilton truly performs this very effectively. He stays on prime of Kelce the entire time and the closes the hole when he makes his last lower in direction of the tip zone. Mahomes throws a picture-perfect back-shoulder fade that’s a bit decrease and to the skin then regular since an interception right here could be an even bigger momentum-shifter than common given the stakes.
Kelce executes his last-second snatch for the ball completely. He sticks his upfield foot into the bottom to cease his second after which drops his weight on the similar time. The cross lands gently in his arms because the momentum carries each gamers into the tip zone.
That is what the elite of the elite can do for a soccer group. Hamilton pressured Mahomes and Kelce right into a scenario the place the room for error was razor skinny. If Mahomes throws it extra exterior, it’s probably incomplete. If he throws it too far inside, it’s probably a back-breaking interception on the highway within the last recreation to get to the Tremendous Bowl.
Just a few gamers could make this play look so effortlessly. Guys like Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers come to thoughts, however it’s even all of the extra spectacular given Kelce performs the tight finish place.
3.) The 22-yard landing towards the Payments the place Kelce imploded the protection
That is most likely my favourite landing of the three which is why I reserve it for final. It’s an superior mixture of the Chiefs’ capacity to scout the Payments protection and Kelce’s information of the play and the way to leverage his affect towards the Payments.
When the Chiefs initially line up, they’re in a 2×2 formation with Kelce lined as much as the left bunched subsequent to fellow tight finish Noah Grey. Earlier than the snap, Mahomes motions wideout Mecole Hardman over to provide him three pass-catchers to his proper. On the opposite facet of the road, the Payments confirmed a glance of getting one security probably patrolling the center of the sphere. That security, nevertheless, was on the best facet. When Hardman motioned over, it introduced the left security down into the field to cowl both Kelce or Grey.
The Chiefs schemed the Payments up right here. Buffalo had some communication points, and KC used Mecole Hardman’s movement to make life troublesome.
In the end, it is a single-high look, a blown protection and a walk-in landing for Travis Kelce. pic.twitter.com/UtJkbuuKBD
— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) January 23, 2024
On the snap, three Payments defenders lined up head on to the Chiefs bunch. Grey takes an out of doors launch behind Kelce, stems vertical, and sits down about 5 to seven yards down the sphere simply exterior the hash. Hardman, who motioned to the outermost spot of the bunch, additionally took an out of doors launch, pressed vertical, after which broke off on an out path to the sideline.
In the meantime, Kelce takes an inside launch to get between Grey and his defender. When he meets his defender on the second stage, he breaks again exterior arduous to get exterior leverage. From there, the defender appears to easily let Kelce go unguarded into the third stage. Kelce notices this after which sees there’s no third stage defender on his facet of the sphere. He instantly straightens the break on his nook route in direction of the pylon which solely burdens the single-high security much more who already realizes it’s too late.
Kelce hauls within the straightforward pitch-and-catch from Mahomes.