AFC West Champs Notebook: Kelce sits out first drive

The Kansas City Chiefs moved down the field on their opening drive for a field goal, but they did so without the services of tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce’s absence didn’t get less mysterious following the Chiefs’ 37-27 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith scrambles for yards during the team's 37-27 win over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on Jan. 1, 2017. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR,
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith scrambles for yards during the team’s 37-27 win over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on Jan. 1, 2017. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR,

Reporters asked coach Andy Reid about Kelce’s absence on the opening drive. Reid declined to comment, only indicated that it was his decision for Kelce to remain on the sidelines.

“I’m not going to get into all of that,” Reid said after the game. “I’m not even going to get into all of that. All of that stuff stays in.”

Kelce finished the game with one catch for eight yards on two pass targets. That was enough to extend his streak of game with at least one reception to 47 games. But it also stands as the worst performance since the first game of his career.

The tight end expressed nothing but good vibes to reporters after the game.

“It is just a fun team to be on,” Kelce said. “In the locker room, everybody is having a blast. You guys weren’t here but about five minutes ago, it was nothing but smiles from ear to ear.”


The Chiefs received a couple of scares with safety Eric Berry leaving the game with an Achilles injury and receiver Jeremy Maclin briefly leaving the game with an ankle sprain.

“I think he will be alright,” Reid said about Berry.

The biggest loss came during the game with a knee injury to rookie linebacker Dadi Nicolas. Reid said preliminary results indicate a ruptured patellar tendon. The injury could sideline Nicolas until the start of training camp or longer. Reid said the rookie would receive an MRI in Kansas City on Monday.

Linebacker Justin Houston (knee) and running back Spencer Ware (bruised ribs) sat out the game against the Chargers. Reid indicated after the game both should be available for the divisional round of the playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium in two weeks.

“I think (Houston) will be OK too,” Reid said. “Spence will be ok. I think we will be alright there.”

The Chiefs also held out linebacker Justin March-Lillard. The team activated him to the roster Friday afternoon, but did not list him with an injury designation. The team considers March-Lillard fully recovered from surgery for a hand injury sustained in week six against the Oakland Raiders.


Quarterback Alex Smith’s disappearance from the Chiefs running attack vexed fans and the team alike much of the season, but Smith has shown signs of finding his wheels again late in the season.

Smith scored a rushing touchdown for the third-straight game. Smith rushed 14 times for 78 yards and three touchdowns in the last three games. He rushed 34 times for 56 yards and two touchdowns in the first 13 games of the season.

Smith remains at a loss for why he struggled running the ball much of the season.

“For some reason I felt like there was a big lull there in the middle of the season where I wasn’t getting as much done with my legs,” Smith said. “Those can be difference makers in games I think, use your legs, extend plays and move the chains.”

Reid remains resolute the Chiefs never tell Smith to run, or not to run.

“Some of those are plays where he has to run read on that according to the front that’s presented,” Reid said. “Other ones he’s just taking off and going.”

Smith’s fifth rushing touchdown of the season tied Steve Bono’s team record for touchdowns by a quarterback. The 12-year veteran now has nine rushing touchdowns for the Chiefs, tying him with Len Dawson for the team’s career record for touchdown runs by a quarterback.


Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.