February 26, 2024

outburst with coach, big plays


Chiefs’ Travis Kelce was clearly frustrated in the first half, at one point yelling at Andy Reid on the sideline. But his second half was a completely different story.

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LAS VEGAS – If this year’s main character in the NFL was Travis Kelce, the scriptwriters saved his most dramatic episode for the 2023 season finale.

Kelce’s Super Bowl storyline was dramatic enough to be a fitting coda to the soap opera’s 21-game set of the Kansas City Chiefs’ season. He came in with high expectations. Facing adversity. There was redemption and triumph. It was interrupted by an Elvis Presley impersonation, fitting for the first Super Bowl in Las Vegas.

“Vivaaaaaaaaaaaaa, Vivaaaaaaaaa, Las Vegassssssssssssss!!” a hoarse Kelce, Lombardi Trophy in hand, shouted into the microphone as CBS’ Jim Nantz interviewed him on stage.

The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 58 in overtime on Sunday, 25-22, to claim their third title in five years and second in a row. As is usual for a leading man, Kelce played a crucial role. But his first half was thin – almost an empty space.

He had one catch for one yard. He finished with nine catches for 93 yards, leading all receivers in both categories.

“I didn’t care what my catches were,” Kelce said of the first 30 minutes of the game. “I just wanted the score to be different.”

Kansas City trailed 10-3 at halftime. As for what changed for Kelce between the two halves, the tight end flexed his comedic chops and said he stopped “playing like a jabroni, man.”

The drama came when Kelce bumped into Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on the sideline in the second quarter and nearly toppled ‘Big Red’. Teammates pulled him away. A few plays earlier, Kelce seemed frustrated because quarterback Patrick Mahomes wasn’t throwing to him. the ball when he was wide open (the pass was completed for a 52-yard gain to Mecole Hardman, anyway). Towards the end of the evening, they hugged as confetti fell on their shoulders.

“I was just telling him how much I love him,” Kelce, who didn’t want to go there, said of the dust.

“He threw me off balance. He shot me cheap,” Reid said, leaning on his dry humor to tackle the sticky situation. “But that’s all right; he did well.”

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All Kelce wanted to tell his coach, Reid said, was that he would score if he was in the game. And Kelce called Reid the type of mentor who taught him to channel his emotions.

“He’s one of the best men’s leaders I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Kelce, who added that Reid is “the best coach this game has ever seen…I owe my entire career to that man .”

Reid asked Kelce — along with Mahomes and defensive tackle Chris Jones — to address the Chiefs Saturday night at the team’s final pre-Super Bowl meeting. According to those in attendance, the message Kelce delivered was “powerful.”

“You just felt the energy, the passion,” Kansas City safety Justin Reid said. “He was just talking about us just being us, man. It didn’t matter what anyone else said. It didn’t matter what the commentators or analysts or professionals or anyone else said, positive or negative. It’s about us. It’s not about making excuses; it’s about going out there and playing dominantly. And you felt that.”

The message, Kelce said, was to show how much he cared about his teammates and coaches and that they had the “formula” to become champions.

“They’re leaders and they stick together,” offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said in the locker room about Andy Reid and Kelce. “I don’t think many people thought we would stand here on Christmas Day as Super Bowl champions, and we do that because we have good people who care.”

On the Chiefs’ first drive of the game, Kelce caught a short pass to the left that went for one yard. He didn’t record another catch until the 12:26 mark of the third quarter. That got him fired up at halftime, and Kelce once again turned up the heat for his teammates.

“Just being accountable to the guys around me, being accountable to Coach Reid,” Kelce said.

Mahomes, who threw an interception on the third play of the second half, looked Kelce’s way to open the Chiefs’ next drive for an 11-yard gain.

Kelce has been involved in each of the Chiefs’ last six drives. But the biggest play came with 16 seconds left in regulation time and Kansas City trailing 16-13. Facing a third-and-7 from San Francisco’s 33-yard line, Kelce cut up the middle, Mahomes hit him in stride and Kelce nearly rounded the corner for a game-winning touchdown but was pushed out of bounds by the Niners. 11 yard line with 10 seconds left.

Kelce said he asked Reid to put it on his shoulders with the game on the line.

“I live for moments like that and I love Big Red because he gives me those opportunities,” said the 34-year-old. “It’s a beautiful thing, man, when it all comes together.”

In the Chiefs locker room, not long after hugging Taylor Swift on the court, it was Kelce who gathered the majority of his teammates as music blared from the speakers and cigar smoke wafted.

Kelce called up tight ends coach Tom Melvin. A bottle of champagne was walked to the center of the room, where a circle formed around Kelce. Still raving, Kelce began belting out Queen’s “We Are The Champions.” His teammates sang too. The champagne sprayed to the ceiling and down on the Lombardi.

“Unreal,” said Chiefs passing game coordinator Joe Bleymaier, “just unreal.”

As defending champions, the Chiefs had targets on their backs all season. There was a brutal 2-4 run in November and December. Kelce missed the first game of the season against the Detroit Lions due to a knee injury he suffered at the end of training camp. Since September, his romance with Swift has sparked vitriol in some corners of society, especially online.

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“To have the doubters, to have the road we’ve been on, man, it meant everything to even get to this point,” Kelce said. “But to find a way through adversity again, four quarters, five quarters, man, I couldn’t be more proud of the guys, and it’s such an honor to be on this team and in this organization.”

Kelce wasn’t talking about his life off the field when he talked about “doubters” and “setbacks” Sunday. But he might as well have been.

As he left his post-game press conference, Kelce was asked if he would return for another season.

“Sure,” he said, “I want that three-peat.”

In a conversation with Wall Street Journal Magazine earlier this season, Kelce told the newspaper that he is thinking about retirement. Hard not to when there’s a second act of entertainment and acting or something waiting. But as Kelce’s career draws to a close, his case will be heard in the “greatest tight end of all time” conversation.

Winning will always be more important to Kelce than individual statistics, but “I like the legacy of wanting to be the best I can.”

Kelce knows he has played more football than he will play in the future.

“I cherish every moment,” he said.

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