As the Chiefs were losing all of their 18-point lead to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in January, at least Travis Kelce was spared the heartache of the collapse.
For the first time, Kelce revealed that he had no idea what was occurring during the second half of the game he was forced to depart just before halftime after receiving a hit that resulted in a concussion.
As the craziness of the second half unfolded — Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota tossing a pass that deflected back to him for a touchdown, and the Chiefs missing a field goal, among the oddities that contributed to the blown lead — Kelce was in the NFL's concussion protocol without access to a television.
“I missed the entire second half until that last drive,” Kelce said. “I jumped out of an MRI machine and looked at the score and (thought) ‘What the heck is going on?’
“I haven’t really even peeked at the film ever since because I don’t really want to know what the heck happened. It was uncomfortable because I couldn’t be out there to help my team.”
When Kelce finally saw a score, the Chiefs, leading 21-3 at halftime, had fallen behind 22-21.
“Talk about ruining your day, man,” Kelce said. “All the air just left my body and I just sat down and had my fingers crossed that somebody could go out and make some plays.”
The Chiefs’ final drive ended with Alex Smith’s deep attempt to Albert Wilson falling incomplete, and Tennessee ran out the clock for the stunning outcome.
Much has changed for the Chiefs since that game. For starters, Smith and Wilson are no longer with the team. Neither are such familiar names as Marcus Peters, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Bennie Logan and Zach Fulton.
On Monday, the first day of Chiefs’ voluntary workouts, Kelce and several others addressed injuries that ended their season, although wide receiver Chris Conley (Achilles), center Mitch Morse (foot) and outside linebacker Dee Ford (back) didn’t reveal a timetable for their return.
The Chiefs have added several faces to the mix: cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and David Amerson, defensive tackle Xavier Williams, linebacker Anthony Hitchens and wide receiver Sammy Watkins chief among them.
The season-ending loss stuck with the Chiefs, perhaps longer than previous playoff defeats. The longest-tenured Chiefs player suggested the team, which is set to begin its sixth season under head coach Andy Reid, is now where its parking-lot mates were before their best years.
“You see the ’14 Royals, the ’15 Royals, whatever they did to make that last push, whether it was the bullpen or whatever it is, we’re trying to do that to fit all these guys … we’re there," punter Dustin Colquitt said. "We have the guys, we have the coaches. How do you make that last push to make us have a parade instead of watching a parade?”
Kelce watched his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, celebrate with teammates after their Super Bowl triumph. He took some comfort in knowing that a team coached by former Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, and running the same concepts Reid runs in Kansas City, could win a championship.
“It’s more reachable,” Kelce said. “I can get to there because I’ve seen it done by guys through a similar offense through a similar team coached by a coach I was under, that’s coached me.
“I got to take almost a second-hand look at the Eagles, and I saw how tight knit of a group that was last year. When you get a lot of guys who come together for one goal and live their life focused on one goal, that’s a powerful thing.”
That becomes the Chiefs’ aim.
“We have some new pieces so we have to kind of feel out whose personality fits where and see how everybody meshes.”