I’m a big believer in football being the ultimate team sport. No other game relies on as many different individuals working together as one; for a team to be successful, 11 players must work together.
With so many players involved, not everyone can have a big game — and the Kansas City Chiefs are a perfect example. They have arguably the best wide receiver and tight end in football, yet both players have had underwhelming statistical performances in games this season.
Travis Kelce’s came in the Week 4 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Even as they won 42-30 and never punted, Kelce could only muster 23 yards. Yet he made a considerable impact away from the ball: two of the team’s touchdowns came on play designs that made the defense believe Kelce was getting the ball. On one of them, he even became an actor.
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy applauded Kelce for this kind of selflessness — but also said it wasn’t the only way the tight end displayed his team-first mentality during the game.
“Travis is one of our leaders,” Bieniemy emphasized to reporters on Thursday. “I told Travis, ‘I am so proud of the way you conducted yourself on the sidelines.’ He kept the guys energized; he was on the sidelines keeping everyone in tune... talking about a guy that really didn’t have good numbers — but the numbers didn’t matter to him. The only thing he wanted was to ensure we could come away with a victory. He didn’t play his best game — but he was a leader of men.”
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s lackluster game came in the Week 2 loss to the Baltimore Ravens — as the Ravens focused on stopping him, he accumulated only 14 yards — but it was the opposite in Week 4. He scored three times and racked up 183 yards.
Even with the big game, Bieniemy knows Hill cares more about their victory than his box score.
“Tyreek is a kid that loves to compete,” Bieniemy explained. “Whether his numbers are high or low, Tyreek doesn’t care; the only thing Tyreek cares about is winning. If you had to ask him throughout that point of time if it was 100 yards and losing or 100 yards receiving and winning — or not 100 yards and not winning — he’ll tell you: he’d want the win. He’s a huge advocate for team play; numbers don’t matter to him.”
Starting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire also had to be selfless during Sunday’s game. He saw just 14 of the 25 backfield carries, splitting the handoffs with running back Darrel Williams. Both had efficient games on the ground — and moving forward, it could lead to the two being used in tandem more often.
Bieniemy has no issue with spreading the wealth among his backs.
“The more, the merrier,” Bieniemy pointed out. “The more yards you can put on the ground, the more pressure you apply to the defense.”
They could have a good game because of the blocking they received upfront; the offensive line turned in a dominant performance against the Eagles.
“It’s been fun watching the offensive line open up those seams up front,” Bieniemy reflected. “That’s what I love: these guys are developing a chemistry together. On top of that, you’re seeing the wide receivers and tight ends getting blocks downfield... It’s good that we’re doing this, and we want to continue this — but we also understand the importance of throwing the football. We have to make sure we stay efficient, and that we’re taking care of the ball. That’s the most important thing.”
Running the ball as effectively as they have over the last two weeks will pay dividends for an offense that can dominate through the air. Teams will be much more focused on stopping that passing attack, leaving light boxes for the running backs to maneuver through.
The bigger the run lanes get, the easier it is — and right now, they’re big enough that a 52-year-old former running back feels confident he could jump in.
“Hell, I think I could’ve ran,” laughed Bieniemy. “I told Clyde I could’ve gotten at least four or five yards... it’s always good when the bigs are playing good.”