Just one month ago Kansas City Chiefs tight Travis Kelce headed toward the locker room at Arrowhead Stadium, ejected for the now-infamous throwing his towel as if it were a flag episode, and gaining more attention for his reality TV show than his on-the-field exploits.
What a difference a month can make.
Kelce set a career high with 140 receiving yards in his team’s 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons. He matched his career best with eight receptions.
Falcons safety Keanu Neal saw up close what makes Kelce tough to defend.
“He is a technician, smart with his routes, and knows how to play the game,” Neal said. “He is a great route runner and can play ball. That is why he is a Pro Bowler.”
With wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on the sidelines, Kelce emerged as the veteran pass catcher quarterback Alex Smith and the the offense leans on in tough situations.
“One of the most unique tight ends in the NFL,” Smith said. “I think of what he can do, he has so many different strengths.”
Since the ejection against Jacksonville, Kelce grabbed 26 catches for 380 yards during the last four games. He now owns a three-game streak topping the 100-yard mark in receiving.
Kelce’s play in the last month elevated the play of other receivers, Smith said.
“He’s a heck of a player that we do a lot with,” the quarterback explained. “He gets a lot of attention so it’s a battle to mix him around. That last play he was getting doubled which allows Albert (Wilson) to win the one-on-one outside.”
The fourth-year tight end signed a five-year, $46.8 million contract extension in January that runs through 2021. Kelce is rewarding the Chiefs with the best season of his career, with 65 catches for for 815 yards. That’s just seven receptions 60 yards away from his career bests.
With four more games to play, Kelce appears on track to become the second Chiefs tight end to top the 1,000 yard mark in a season. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez topped that mark four times in his career.
For Kelce’s part, he says personal marks are secondary to team wins.
“I’m just out there playing the game and trying to make plays for the guys around me,” Kelce said. “You don’t think about things like that when you’re out there on the field, especially as critical and crucial the entire game was for us.”