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Chiefs know they must play better when Travis Kelce is double-teamed

If Kansas City’s best offensive weapon is so heavily covered, why hasn’t anyone else stepped up against lighter attention?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs returned to practice on Wednesday after their 21-17 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. The loss marked Kansas City’s second loss in three games, with the Chiefs continually failing to score after halftime during the stretch.

As the Chiefs conduct an autopsy on the seemingly deceased second-half offense, one thing is obvious: teams are selling out to prevent tight end Travis Kelce from making plays.

Speaking before practice, quarterback Patrick Mahomes claimed that the team’s inability to connect on deep passes — infamously seen on the team’s final drive on Monday night — allows teams to focus more heavily on Kelce.

“I think y’all can see it on the tape,” the face of the league observed, “they’re putting two or three guys on him. They understand how much of a threat he is and how well he’s played for a long time now. So, they’re trying to take him away the best they can. It’s my job to get it to the right guy so we can execute.

“If we hit some of these deep passes that we are missing, it’s going to take teams out of those double teams and triple teams.”

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In the locker room on Wednesday, running back Jerick McKinnon lamented that no other Chiefs player has seemed to step up given the attention Kelce commands.

“Just a little double teams,” he explained, “they’re going to make it tough on him. He’s leading us right now, and I were a defensive coordinator, I’d probably do the same thing. He demands that respect, and I think teams have shown that throughout the year. Leave room for somebody else to step up. We’ve got depth. We’ve got players. It’s just about who’s going to step up. When one of us steps up, we’ll get this thing going.”

That the league’s best tight end commands extra attention is not new. Mahomes noted the difference this season is that the team’s other weapons are not taking advantage.

“Teams have done it in the past,” he recalled. “I think we have just connected on other throws, and it takes teams out of it. Whenever you double team a guy or put three guys it opens up a lot of space for me running the football, and it opens up a lot of space for other guys to win.

“As much as it sounds like they can do it and just double team Travis, they’re putting themselves out there for big plays to happen. If we can connect on those, it’ll take teams out putting two or three guys on him.”

In an interview published this week with The Wall Street Journal, the now-34-year-old Kelce admitted that he does think about retirement. While Chiefs head coach Andy Reid does not believe anything is imminent, he does concede that Kelce — and Kansas City’s coaching staff — is having to account for toll on the star’s body.

“I think he enjoys what he’s doing,” Reid said on Wednesday. “I’m sure, though, [with] the mileage on him, he’s got some aches and pains. We try to help him out with that. He doesn’t like coming out. We make him come out in practice and pull him out of plays. He wants to be in on everything. The older he gets, he’s got to handle that part. When you get mileage on you, [there’s] a time and a place.”

However, Kansas City’s current offensive woes heavily stem from Kelce seeing sticky coverage while on the field. Should the Chiefs manage him more, that puts even more pressure to find another reliable option in the receiving game.

“Somebody else has to step up,” McKinnon reiterated. “Somebody else has to make plays. Right now, that’s what we’re searching for.”

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