Why Andy Reid interrupted Travis Kelce’s post-game interview after Chiefs beat Titans

Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

Travis Kelce stood in front of his locker late Sunday, holding court in front of a group of local reporters. He had just begun his answer to the first question when a booming voice interrupted.

The sound caught Kelce’s attention almost immediately, and he twisted his head to see the source.

His head coach.

“Hey, what were you thinking when you came back on that ball?” Andy Reid passionately shouted, and then repeated himself once more.

Kelce paused his answer, a response to a similar topic, and replied to his coach instead.

“I was thinking, man, I needed to make a play for ‘Big Red,’ man,” Kelce said, using the nickname for Reid. “That guy’s been dialing me up, (but) I haven’t made a play all day. I gotta figure it out.”

On a night in which it seemed like quarterback Patrick Mahomes played 1-on-11 offense, someone else finally came through in overtime of the Chiefs’ 20-17 win against the Titans.

And if your first inclination is why wouldn’t it be Travis Kelce, I’ll remind you that for the better part of 60 minutes, it most certainly had not been Travis Kelce. A third-quarter pass deflected off him and into into the arms of Roger McCreary for an interception. A fourth-quarter pass, with five seconds left, fell through his hands, negating the potential for a long game-winning field goal attempt.

In glimpses Sunday, unlike any other game this season, we saw some of the traits of the younger version of Kelce, complete with a helmet toss across the sideline. But in just a single snapshot, we saw what keeps him at the top of his position, still, at age 33.

His ability to adjust after the snap. And after the throw, too.

The play we’re talking about — the one Reid felt important enough to interrupt this conversation with — came on what would conclude as the Chiefs’ game-winning drive in overtime.

The Chiefs were backed up, behind the original line of scrimmage for a second-down snap, and Mahomes was dodging traffic within the pocket. He stepped forward and flicked a pass to his most trusted option. Who cares if he was covered? Who cares if this hadn’t been his night?

The pass traveled about five feet behind Kelce, but he jammed his feet into the grass to slow his momentum and contorted his body backward to catch the football with his hands, just in front of Titans safety Kevin Byard.

“We don’t have that part drawn up,” Reid would later say.


Which is kind of the point here.

Kind of the reason that Reid deemed it a big enough play to interrupt a post-game interview.

The Chiefs were pretty bad offensively for about a two-and-a-half quarter stretch Sunday. The offensive line had been beat; the running game was non-existent; the receivers dropped a season-high six passes. And one of their most trusted options — Kelce — was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

But in a had-to-have-it moment, Mahomes still looked toward No. 87.

Well, eventually.

See, Kelce was actually the primary option on the play all along — he ran a deep crossing route from left to right. But based on a pre-snap read, Mahomes anticipated wide receiver Skyy Moore, lined up on the opposite side of the line, would be the one to pop open. Mahomes was wrong, though, and he had only a split-second to correct his error.

After avoiding the rush, his eyes spotted Kelce, though Mahomes didn’t have enough time to set his feet and threw with his body falling toward the ground. It was off-target.

He thought.

It went for 18 yards. Three snaps, later, the Chiefs were in field goal range.

“That’s what makes Travis so great. I threw it late. It probably had a chance to get picked,” Mahomes said. “But he came back to the ball and made a big-time catch.”

The Chiefs revamped their offensive weapons this season, but when in the push-comes-to-shove plays, this is still what they want to do. Even as the objective was to put together a more diverse group — and that multiplicity really has helped win games — they still want to return to what they’ve known since Mahomes took over as the franchise’s quarterback.

It’s part of the headache they can provide. The Chiefs can do everything wrong for two quarters in the middle of the game. Heck, they can do 90% of the things wrong in an individual play. And they can still beat you.

Mahomes is the central figure in all of that, of course.

But Kelce? The arc of his role played out in a single game.

“I’ve been here for a while, and I’ve had some wild ones,” Kelce said. “This one here feels pretty damn good.”