The Kansas City Chiefs looked like an eminently beatable team on Sunday night, until they didn’t. For about the first 20 minutes of the game, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was doing a good job of keeping Patrick Mahomes and company in check. A botched play led to T.J. Watt streaking into the end zone for the first points of the game, giving the visiting team a 7-0 lead.
That’s when the spanking commenced, Kansas City going on to score touchdowns on its next six possessions. And I would say that they emptied their bag of tricks in the effort, but the truth is, they have the deepest bag in the league. There was a shovel pass. There was a pass to a lineman. And then there was a pass from a tight end.
That would be All-Pro Travis Kelce, who was a pretty decent quarterback back in high school, finding Byron Pringle in the end zone. That one was the sixth of six touchdowns, and solidified a 42-14 lead on first and goal from the two within the first minute of the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t his first pass in the NFL—in fact it was his fourth, though the first in the postseason—but he was given pretty clear directions about what not to do, which was essentially to be a quarterback in any sense beyond the actual throwing of the football.
“Trying to throw the ball to Pringle, I was told to not read the defense at all and just trust it”, he said. “Last time I read it out, I threw a pick against New York. I got the no-read clause; do not read it out, you got one guy to throw it to”.
The previous pass to which he refers came in 2017, in Week 10 against the New York Giants, a game that the Chiefs lost, 12-9. It came on 2nd and 10 from the Chiefs’ own 34, brought back to the 26, and led to a Giants touchdown—the only touchdown of the game. Fittingly, though, that drive actually began after the Chiefs’ defense intercepted Giants running back Shane Vereen, including the red zone on first down.
In case you were wondering, yes, that is the only pass Vereen ever threw in his career.
As you might have seen on social media on Sunday, Kelce’s mother had attended her other son’s playoff game earlier in the day (that being Eagles center Jason Kelce), and had to fly out to catch the fourth quarter of the Chiefs game. She got a chance to ask Travis a question during his postgame press conference, asking him how it felt to finally throw a touchdown in the NFL.
“To finally throw a touchdown? Like I used to tell my Mom when I was five years old, I was eventually going to throw a touchdown in the National Football League”, he said, in a nice little family moment. “I finally got it done. It only took me nine years. That’s a good question, Mom. I’m glad I could put a smile on your face”.
Steelers fans are doing anything but smiling, of course. The Chiefs are at or near the height of their powers, while Pittsburgh has many hard questions to ask this offseason, with the likelihood being that they won’t be able to answer all of them.