KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — This season of the Kansas City Chiefs might someday be remembered for two distinct eras: pre-Taylor and post-Taylor.
Travis Kelce's season certainly will be.
Whether coincidence or fate or a function of true love, the Chiefs tight end has been on a tear since his overtures toward pop superstar Taylor Swift resulted in a newfound relationship. Kelce was out with a hyperextended knee in Week 1, when the Chiefs lost to the Lions, and had four catches for 26 yards in his return against the Jaguars. But in the six games since Swift first watched Kelce play, he's caught 48 passes for 499 yards and four touchdowns.
That includes a 12-catch performance for 179 yards and a score in a 31-17 win over the Chargers on Sunday, when Swift was back in an Arrowhead Stadium suite and chest-bumping Brittany Mahomes, wife of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
In the four games Swift has attended, Kelce has averaged 108 yards receiving. He averaged 46.5 in the two games she did not.
That led Chiefs coach Andy Reid to say: “Taylor can stay around as long as she want.”
He wasn't joking, either. She might be Kelce's good-luck charm.
Or maybe he's just defying logic by getting better with age.
Even though he turned 34 earlier this month, the same age as retired tight end Rob Gronkowski, Kelce continues to make plays that leave everyone wondering just how he did that. Take his game against the Chargers, a division rival that has seen him plenty of times yet was powerless to prevent him from finding open nooks and crannies in their defense.
In one case, Kelce found a yawning chasm and ran 54 yards before he was finally brought down by the Chargers.
“The younger Trav would have scored on that one,” Mahomes said with a smile, “I'll say that.”
He might not have been that open, though. Mahomes said the biggest difference in the 34-year-old Kelce from the one who broke into the league a decade ago is his ability to diagnose what the defense is doing, then quickly find a way to counteract it.
“He's played every single team and every single coverage,” Mahomes said, “and knows every way to make them pay.”
That much is true regardless of whether Swift is in the house.
The Chiefs sacked Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert five times on Sunday, and each came from a different player — and none from Chris Jones, whose streak of eight straight regular-season games with a sack came to an end. That production from across the board is a good sign for the Chiefs' pass rush, which has been relying heavily on their All-Pro defensive tackle for years.
“All of us are versatile, we’re all playing inside or out. Getting us all on the field is huge — every single one of us can rush,” said Mike Danna, who had one of the sacks Sunday. "Keep on stacking the reps and getting better with the guys.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Chiefs were penalized six times for 43 yards, but a few of them were particularly painful. One was a questionable block in the back on left guard Joe Thuney well downfield that took away Jerick McKinnon's 48-yard touchdown reception; the Chiefs wound up getting a field goal on the drive instead.
Second-round draft pick Rashee Rice is quickly developing into an impact wide receiver. He had five catches for 60 yards and a score against Los Angeles, and he's had at least four catches in each of his last three games.
“He’s doing a really good job of just doing what he’s supposed to do and making the plays that he’s supposed to make, not trying to be anything that he’s not,” wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling said. “You see a lot of rookies come in and try to do too much and can’t figure out the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do. He’s just been doing his job and it’s been paying off for him. He’s a quiet kid who listens to what he’s told to do. He always wants to learn. He’s always taking notes, and it shows.”
Former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire's time in Kansas City is coming to a lackluster end. He had just two carries for five yards against the Chargers and has 32 for 105 yards through seven games in the final season of his rookie contract.
Playmaking linebacker Nick Bolton fractured his wrist while tackling the Chargers' Keenan Allen. Bolton was only in his second game back after missing the previous three with an ankle injury.
29 and 3 — Mahomes has 29 wins and three losses in his career against the AFC West. And with the victory over the Chargers, the Chiefs have a three-game lead in the division just seven weeks into the season.
The Chiefs can do more damage in the AFC West race when they visit the Broncos on Sunday. The two will be playing for the second time in three weeks after Kansas City scraped its way to a 19-8 win on Oct. 12 at Arrowhead Stadium.
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