During the course of this season, the Kansas City Chiefs were the subject of countless news stories, talking points on TV and podcast conversations nationwide—and not for very many good reasons. Throughout the year the conversations circled 'round off-the-field issues such as Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce's relationship, Jackson Mahomes' legal battles, superfluous amounts of commercials, and more while the on-the-field conversations weren't great either.
Those conversations, specifically those revolving around the Chiefs' receivers and their drops, continued to bring up the narrative that this was not going to be Kansas City's year. Not only were the drops a central focus, Kelce's age and production were highlighted as well as the lack of receivers that Patrick Mahomes has been able to throw to this season.
Well, now that the season is down to two teams--Kansas City and San Francisco--it's obvious that those narratives and conversations have meant nothing other than the fuel they provided for Mahomes and company to use to their advantage.
Swifties and the millions of new Chiefs fans are apparently a problem?
The most obvious storyline of the Chiefs' 2023-24 season was the addition of a very famous fan: Taylor Swift. Swift, who is worth over a billion dollars, showed her face for the first time on September 24th as the Chiefs routed the Bears 41-10 and ever since then she has infuriated thousands of men online and brought millions of new viewers to the already-popular sport.
For some reason, Swift's appearances at games have become more and more of a conversation, especially on Twitter and other social media sites where toxic masculinity has been on full display. But throughout all of the "distractions" that Swift has brought Kansas City and their superstar, future Hall of Fame tight end, she has not stopped this team's momentum nor her boyfriend's.
In the three postseason games that the Chiefs have played in, all of which saw Swift in the suites watching, Kelce has caught at least five balls for at least 70 yards and a total of three touchdowns. In the AFC Championship game, Kelce grabbed 11 catches for 116 yards (10.5 yards per catch) along with the first touchdown of the game, breaking the record for most postseason catches by any receiver in NFL history (Jerry Rice).
Kelce's 116 yards is also the eighth time he's broken the triple-digit mark in the postseason and the fifth time he's recorded over 110 receiving yards in a playoff game--the most by a tight end in NFL history, ahead of players like Rob Gronkowski (three), Greg Olsen (two) and Keith Jackson (two).
So, thanks to his continued dominance on the field, it would seem that dating one of the most famous women on the planet has not stopped Kelce from maintaining his status as the overall TE1 in the league. Add on the fact that Kelce has gained over 3.69 million followers on Instagram and you can see that this entire relationship has been a win-win situation for Kelce and the Chiefs in general.
Drops, more drops, and Dollar Store employees psyched out the entire league.
The entire 2023-24 season the conversations around the Chiefs' receivers and their record-breaking amount of drops, leading most analysts and talking heads to pound the table that Mahomes is the new Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers famously played most of his career without a top-tier wide receiver and it appeared that Kansas City's best pass catcher all year long was going to be Kelce.
Luckily, for Chiefs fans and for Mahomes, the emergence of rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice and the lack of playing time for Kadarius Toney helped the team tremendously down the stretch. Ironically, Rice (eight) and Kelce (seven) led the team in drops ahead of Toney (five) and Justin Watson (four) but the big difference was the amount of targets that Rice (102) and Kelce (121) were given compared to the other two (88 combined).
In the end, the Chiefs finished with the most drops by wide receivers (28) and the highest drop rate in the NFL with 12%. Combine the receivers drops with 16 drops by tight ends and running backs, including three off the hands of Jerick McKinnon and two off of Isiah Pacheco, and it was obvious that Mahomes was struggling for the first time in his career.
Fast forward to the playoffs and it's obvious the Chiefs have mastered the art of not dropping the ball (knock on wood), especially with the ecstatic plays that Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been making on a weekly basis after being shunned by fans all season long. He continued that with the game-clinching and Super Bowl-clinching catch on third-and-nine (below) that showed just how big Andy Reid and Mahomes' cojones were in the biggest spot of the night.
Now the Chiefs are in the Super Bowl and feeling as confident as ever in their receiving core, especially after only one ball was dropped in the past two games with that being Richie James against Baltimore on a ball thrown a little behind him over the middle of the field.
Suddenly, this group of receivers that were compared to the plumbers and gas station workers all season long—similar to NBA players that competed against Michael Jordan in the 90s—are going to be representing the Chiefs in their fourth Super Bowl in five seasons, and nobody is scared of that idea any longer.
AFC teams aren't scared of KC anymore...
All season long it was said that the Chiefs were falling out of their Super Bowl window thanks to their poor receiving options (above) and other issues, but the main reason that people on television and in the media didn't believe Kansas City could make it back to the last game is the talent around the AFC. Lamar Jackson and his second MVP season, Josh Allen and his recharged Buffalo Bills, Joe Burrow (before his injury), Aaron Rodgers (before his injury), C.J. Stroud and his amazing rookie season, Justin Herbert and his always-terrifying Chargers roster—all these quarterbacks and more were touted as possible replacements for Mahomes at the top of the AFC totem pole at some point during the preseason or regular season.
But Chiefs fans knew better, and now it shows with Mahomes continuing to prove he's a one-of-one quarterback with his fourth AFC Championship title since he took over just six seasons ago. What's even better is the fact that Mahomes was able to prove that on the road at the homes of the #2 and #1 seeds in the AFC, proving that seeding means nothing to the man who has broken pretty much every playoff record he can by his 29th birthday.
Still, no matter how the Super Bowl plays out, there will be countless talking heads on television who will continue to pick players like Allen or Jackson over Mahomes before the 2024-25 season kicks off. Even worse, there will always be those who pick players like Herbert or coaches like Denver's Sean Payton or the newly-hired Jim Harbaugh in L.A. over Reid.
Kelce's old and past his prime
On top of dating (arguably) the most famous woman in the world, Kelce had to battle the argument that he was past his prime and aging rapidly on the field. Granted, there were a few games where he was unable to show the explosiveness that he has been known for over the course of his eleven-season career.
Last season Kelce recorded over 100 receiving yards five times. He did so again, including the playoffs, in the season beforehand and he recorded seven (!!!) during the 2020-21 season. So when he only nabbed two 100+ yard receiving games this year it was just more kindling for the fire that "experts" continued to fan throughout the year (below).
Kelce, who is now 34 years and 115 days old, racked up 116 yards in one of the biggest playoff games of his entire career and shut all those haters up in one false swoop. He not only silenced the haters, he became the oldest tight end to record over 100 receiving yards in a playoff game ever, beating out his own record and Tennessee's Frank Wycheck back in 2003 when he was 31 years and 89 days old.
It's obvious now that Kelce, even if he is technically "past his prime," is still the best receiving tight end in the game and it's not particularly close. Hopefully this time next year we can still say the same thing about the future first-ballot Hall of Fame player.
Now it's time for the final nail in the coffin. Kelce, Mahomes, and Reid can pull off the improbable and amazing ending that almost nobody saw the Chiefs achieving this season, no matter the reasoning. With one more victory, this time over a very tough San Francisco 49ers defense and fully loaded 49ers offense, the Chiefs can cement their place in history and completely shut down any and all haters that still exist around the world.