Patriots’ Bill Belichick Has High Praise for KC Chiefs’ Travis Kelce

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) looks on from the sideline before an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. The Bills defeated the Chiefs, 20-17. (Ryan Kang via AP)

The future Hall of Fame tight end is squarely on Belichick’s radar ahead of Sunday’s Chiefs-Patriots matchup.

The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots don’t have much of a storied past or a rivalry with the two franchises, but rather a mutual respect that’s grown over the years.

Between Andy Reid, Bill Belichick and their players, there’s a clear level of understanding of what both sides bring to the table and have accomplished. As Sunday’s game in Foxborough gets closer, that isn’t going away. Earlier this week, it was Kansas City that praised Belichick for keeping his team prepared and fielding a good defense despite going through a rough season overall.

Need another example? Just ask Belichick about Travis Kelce. The man of few words gushed about the Chiefs’ superstar tight end, pointing out every facet in which he ranks favorably and gets an advantage over his peers.

“He’s got a real good feel for how to play, how to get open,” Belichick said this week. “He has a great chemistry with Mahomes. A lot of his plays come on extended plays, loose plays. He certainly gets his share of ‘run a route, get open and get the ball,’ but I would say a lot of his plays don’t come like that. The play starts and then something happens, and then he adjusts the route. Or Patrick scrambles, and then he finds him.

“He does a good job of getting open. He’s got good size. Even when you cover him, there’s a place to throw the ball where the defender can’t get it. He’s just big and has a big catch radius. He’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s a good runner after a catch. He’s got a strong stiff-arm. I wouldn’t say elusive, like a slot receiver elusive, but he’s a hard guy to tackle because he’s big and athletic. They get him on some design plays, bubble screens, and things like that where they almost hand him the ball. He can make yards with it after the play, like they do with other players. There’s a few of those for him, too.”

Despite turning 34 earlier this year, Kelce still remains an elite threat in year No. 11 in the NFL. The future Hall of Fame pass-catcher currently leads all tight ends in receiving yards with 896 on the year, also ranking second among all qualified tight ends (20% of maximum targets) in yards per route run per Pro Football Focus. The gap between Kelce and the rest of the NFL may have closed a bit this season, but he’s still posting very similar production to his 2022 data:

Success rate: 63.2% (2022) to 65.0% (2023)
Yards per game: 78.7 (2022) to 74.7 (2023)
Catch rate: 72.4% (2022) to 77.7% (2023)
Yards per target: 8.8 (2022) to 8.7 (2023)
Much of what Belichick pointed out — chemistry with Mahomes, improvisation, etc. — is still very much present with Kelce. He faces a tough task this weekend, however, as the Patriots currently rank fifth in yardage allowed to opposing tight ends and their one touchdown allowed ranks second in the NFL. If Kelce finds success in Week 15, it will be more of an exception than the rule. New England has an effective defense, even at 3-10, and one of the best coaches to ever do the job. Belichick is quite familiar with Kelce’s game; this weekend will tell if the things he praised end up showing on the field at Gillette Stadium.