The Kansas City Chiefs needed every offensive snap to count in their tight, 33-31 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Maybe that’s why 53% of the Chiefs’ plays went in the direction of either wide receiver Tyreek Hill or tight end Travis Kelce.
The superstar duo combined for 30 targets, 19 receptions, 272 receiving yards and two touchdowns — both scored by Hill. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes leaned on both of the pass-catchers in the second half to re-take the lead and hold off a persistent Panthers team.
With all the assumed pressure in a game like that, Hill and Kelce dug out ways to have fun as they put up their monster stat lines.
“It’s always laughs and smiles,” Hill told reporters after the win. “We always try to find situations to have fun within the game — depending on the score. There was a moment in the game when we were down and we called a deep shot, and I said, ‘I know I’m getting it,’ and then Kelce was like, ‘Nah I know I’m getting it.’ So it’s always fun and games man; we just want to go out and win. We kind of push each other, we’re always trying to see who ran the best route because we watch film together. It’s always fun and games.”
The two have made their jokes on each other publicly. Hill changed his Twitter profile picture to an old, high school photo of Kelce this week. In his post-game press conference, Kelce warned Hill before changing his own profile picture.
“Tyreek, he’s too funny man,” Kelce laughed. “I think it might’ve backfired on him, cause I found some old pictures of him as well.”
He went on to elaborate on the chemistry in the organization.
“We have so much fun in this offense, and in this team and in this building.” Kelce observed. “We just have a lot of great character guys that enjoy what they do. So coming in the building every day you’re in for a few laughs, but at the same time, you know that this matters to a lot of people, so football is always first. So we’re making sure we’re taking care of business, but we’re having fun with it.”
Kelce definitely takes care of business. Going into Week 9, he led NFL tight ends in every major receiving category. After another huge game, his quarterback assured that he recognizes his impact.
“It’s something that I will never take for granted,” Mahomes said of having Kelce. “To come into this offense — I had never played with a tight end before — and get the best tight end in the league, it’s special having a guy that I always know where he’s going to be at and he’s going to continue to work.”
Mahomes also used the word “special” to describe Tyreek Hill. Their connection has resulted in four touchdowns over the last two weeks — but it hasn’t been perfect. There were a few missed opportunities between the two in the first half of Sunday’s game, and Hill took blame for one of them. In general, Hill trusts that when the two are off-sync, they’ll get back on the same page quickly.
“Pat gonna be Pat, no matter what, and I’m going to be me.” Hill emphasized. “I know, if Pat overshoots me one play or if I drop a pass, we still going to trust each other to come back and make the next play.”
Hill’s running mate had the ultimate praise for him after the game. Kelce told reporters that he believed his game was taken to another level once Hill became a part of the Chiefs offense in 2016. He went on to hype up one of the only two NFL players to reach 10 touchdowns so far this season.
“He’s the deadliest threat in the National Football League,” Kelce proclaimed. “His first couple years, we had him in the backfield handing it to him like a running back, then it moved to jet sweeps and the gadget plays that are the ones he can absolutely kill you with. Where he’s taken his game to another level is his route running. You can’t put a cap on his speed, you can’t do it.
“Every single week, it’s not necessarily how can you stop Tyreek Hill. It’s how can you contain him, and you can’t contain the cheetah, man.”
With all the compliments being thrown around, it was only right that the two receivers had a chance to share their thoughts on Mahomes’ level of play. When answering if he believed the quarterback is playing the best he ever has, Kelce raved about the amount of film Mahomes watches before confirming the growing narrative.
“I can definitely second or third that, whoever’s been saying it,” Kelce assured. “He’s definitely playing his best ball right now.”
Tyreek Hill agreed.
“The year that he threw the 50 touchdowns, he was amazing, obviously,” Hill recalled. “But this year, it’s like he’s seeing things differently. He’s doing more looks, he’s reading the defense better, he’s changing plays. He’s just great, he has gotten better.”
Going into the bye week, Mahomes is on pace for one of the most unique seasons in NFL history — 4,700 yards and 44 touchdowns, but only two total turnovers.
Mahomes’ big year has resulted in Hill and Kelce being on pace for career seasons themselves. Kelce is on pace to score a career-high 12 touchdowns, while Hill is on a trajectory of nearly 18 total touchdowns this year.
As long as this trio is putting up this sort of production, they should be in good shape to potentially compete for a second straight Super Bowl title.