KANSAS CITY CHIEFS tight end Travis Kelce’s route on third-and-3 in the third quarter of a Week 3 matchup against the Chicago Bears was supposed to take him to the back-right corner of the end zone, but he saw the defense leaving the middle uncovered.So Kelce stopped there instead. That’s when quarterback Patrick Mahomes spotted him and got Kelce the ball for an easy, 3-yard touchdown.With thousands of throws and countless hours in the video room between them, Mahomes and Kelce made the play work even though it wasn’t as the Chiefs designed it.
“You’re talking about two guys that have the instincts that not many people have,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. “There’s a balance, because sometimes when you’re watching tape with rookies or guys that come in, [they ask], ‘Why did Kelce do that or do this?’ Well, he has an innate ability to recognize defenses. It’s on another level. What’s crazier is the fact that Pat knows it, too.
“Sometimes we don’t even practice it. They just do it. … There’s some stuff in there, DNA-wise, between those two guys, that a lot of people don’t have. They have that connection.”The connection started in 2018 when Mahomes became the Chiefs’ starter, and it’s one of the NFL’s all-time greats between a quarterback and tight end. Kelce has 50 touchdown catches from Mahomes, making them the fourth QB-TE duo to reach that mark. They are also fourth for a quarterback and tight end in catches (550) and yards (6,895
Most of those catches, yards and touchdowns have come from plays that were run just as coach Andy Reid designed them. But not all.”I’m trying my hardest to just run this thing like Coach Reid dials it up,” Kelce said. “You want to get creative, but at the right time. … Coach Reid does a great job of putting a lot of work into making these plays make sense for the quarterbacks, so you don’t want to get off script too much.
“All that creative stuff is fun. But for the most part, I would say about 99% of the time, I’m doing what Coach wants me to do.”Things don’t always go so well when the two players improvise. Mahomes nearly threw an interception against the New York Jets in Week 4 when Kelce stopped a route in the middle of the field and Mahomes threw it to the spot Kelce was headed.
But when it does work, it can deliver big results. In the 2021 AFC divisional round against the Buffalo Bills, Kelce told Mahomes he would alter his route to run up a seam in the pass coverage on the Chiefs’ final offensive play of the fourth quarter as they were scrambling to get into field goal range.