Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus The Article iPad Core Values Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive Story ideas

KC in better shape for rematch

by The Associated Press | January 14, 2022 at 2:16 a.m.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce celebrates after the Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers in an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. The Chiefs won 34-28. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The last time the Kansas City Chiefs played the Pittsburgh Steelers, their record-setting wide receiver had just recovered from covid-19 and their star tight end was sitting at home and still dealing with the virus.

They still rolled to a 36-10 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.

Should give the Chiefs a lot of confidence for the rematch in the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday night.

"It was a pretty frustrating time," Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. "I think even though I had some symptoms, it was nothing that would keep me out of the facility, and practicing and going to play in a game. It was pretty frustrating to not go out there with my guys. But once the game started, I had fun watching us go to work. We were hitting on all cylinders."

That's a considerable understatement.

Even without Kelce on the field, and with Tyreek Hill slowed by the illness, Patrick Mahomes still threw for 258 yards and three scores. He hit nine different targets, turning Byron Pringle and Mecole Hardman into fantasy fill-in heroes.

The defense did its part, too. It pitched a first-half shutout, helping Kansas City build a 23-0 lead. By the time the clock hit zeros, the Steelers were bumming and the Chiefs were celebrating.

Now, they have to figure out a way to slow down the same team with two of the league's best at nearly full speed.

"I think they're probably better equipped to answer in terms of the impact of the presence of those guys and what they mean," Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said. "Obviously, we have a bunch of tape to look at and we respect what they're capable of, their talents and how they utilize their talents."

Kelce just might be the best tight end in history once he gets the ball in his hands. He's not the fastest player, nor the most athletic, but he has an uncanny ability to find the open field and turn a short gain into a big one. He had 92 catches for 1,125 yards, and 564 of those yards came after the catch -- the seventh-best total in the NFL this year.

Even though he missed the Pittsburgh game in December, Kelce still eclipsed 1,000 yards for a sixth consecutive year.

"There's a lot of teams that won't be out there this week, and it's a blessing," Kelce said. "It's a blessing to be here in Kansas City and have the success that we've had over my entire nine years in the league, and I just try to take advantage of those opportunities because not everybody gets them."

Kelce's feeling so blessed these days that he just laughed off the fact that Hill, whom he described as "one of my favorite teammates ever," broke his franchise record for receptions with 111 this season.

"That one is supposed to belong to a wide receiver," Kelce said.

Only two of Hill's catches came against the Steelers, though, when he was noticeably slowed by the effects of covid-19. He mostly served as a decoy, which freed up the rest of the Kansas City wide receivers to run wild.

That won't be the case on Sunday night.

"He's a special player. He makes the defense account for everybody," Mahomes said. "To have his speed on the field, it makes defenses play different coverages. They know they can't put him in man-to-man situations because of how talented he is."

  photo  Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates after a 9-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
  photo  Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, right, grabs a pass in the end zone for a touchdown as Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Tevaughn Campbell defends during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  photo  Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill makes a catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  photo  Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was recovering from covid-19 and didn’t play in the Chiefs’ last matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he will be ready to go for the rematch in Sunday’s wild-card game. (AP/John Cordes)

Print Headline: KC in better shape for rematch


Sponsor Content