Chiefs beat Chargers with familiar Travis Kelce play


History repeated itself Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.


If you stayed up for the end of Kansas City’s tense AFC West match at the Chargers, you saw KC tight end Travis Kelce, down by four in the final minute of the game, catch a shallow crossing route from Patrick Mahomes, run right to left across the formation, and take advantage of wideout Justin Watson muddling the middle of the field with a short route just in front of Kelce. Kelce ran upfield for the winning 17-yard TD.

“Funny thing is,” Kelce told me 40 minutes after the game, “we ran the same play to win this game last year.”

Whoa. Wait. The same play?

“Ironic,” Kelce said over the din of a euphoric post-game scene.

Let’s see. After I hung up with Kelce, I hustled to YouTube to find the highlights from Kansas City’s overtime walkoff win over the Chargers last year in California. I looked at the Next Gen Stats “dot” rendition of the play.

Dec. 16. Night game. National TV. SoFi. Tied at 28. Overtime. Kelce caught a shallow crossing route from Patrick Mahomes, running right to left across the formation, took advantage of wideout Byron Pringle muddling the middle of the field with a short route just in front of Kelce. Kelce ran upfield for the winning 34-yard TD.

(Next Gen Stats)

Two slight differences: Coach Andy Reid dressed up this version with some motion—Watson, running to the left pre-snap—that wasn’t in the play last year. And Kelce broke off his free run last year and cut straight upfield to score. This year, Kelce kept running in-stride after making the catch, because there was a great path to the end zone.

Two games, same foe, same stadium, same end-of-game scenario, and Kansas City dialed up the same play. It worked with the same receiver in both games. It won both games.

Last week, in Kansas City, when the offensive staff was installing this crossing route for Kelce, Reid said, “Hard to stop that play.”

And isn’t that one of the open secrets of this Kansas City franchise, with Reid at the helm in his 10th season? Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy design plays for great players like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, and they don’t care if they’ve run the plays twice or 20 times already this season. Hard to stop that play. Sunday night, one of the best safeties in football, Derwin James, chased Kelce futilely across the formation and couldn’t catch him, and Kelce scored fairly easily.

It’s crazy to think Reid dared to call the same play to try to beat the same team 11 months after first calling it, and that it worked so easily. Again. Reid knew what he was calling. He knew it won the Thursday night game last December. He knew it’d win this game too.

Kansas City went 75 yards in 75 seconds, culminating in the winning TD. I asked Kelce why it worked so flawlessly.

“Patrick Mahomes,” he said. “What the people don’t know is we had personnel issues on that series because of injuries we had during the game. Patrick’s the one with the keys to the car. He knows exactly where to go with the ball.”

Before Sunday night, Kelce had played Derwin James four times and never scored with him in coverage. “He’s locked me up in my career,” Kelce said. But he caught two TD passes Sunday night, including the winner, with James in coverage (he caught three total on the night). “This year,” he said, “I was lucky we had a timeout before that final play, so I could get my wind. But he’s tough, really tough.”

This was the season the AFC West was supposed to catch up with Kansas City, and Reid, and Mahomes, and Kelce. Tyreek Hill was gone; the other three West teams were all better. Mahomes has had to break in five new receivers. But now KC has swept the season series with the Chargers, and Reid’s team (8-2) has a three-game lead over the Chargers with the tiebreaker. This division belongs to Kansas City—for the seventh straight year.

“We’re better this year because Patrick and Andy are a year older, a year more experienced together,” Kelce said.

Watching Kelce be the short and intermediate keystone to everything Kansas City does in the passing game, watching Mahomes lean on him during a needy time, I thought, If he never plays another snap after this season, he’s a Hall of Famer. Though I’ve railed against calling guys Hall-of-Famers before their time, he’s been a dominant tight end over a significant period of time. Kelce has 855 receiving yards through 10 games, and barring injury will have his seventh straight season over 1,000 yards. Think of the other great tight ends of our day. Rob Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez had four seasons over 1,000 yards—not consecutive, but total. Shannon Sharpe had three and Jason Witten and Antonio Gates two each. Kelce’s had six straight and is verging on a seventh. Last night was his 33rd game with 100+ receiving yards, breaking Gronkowski’s record (32) of such games by a tight end.

He is marvelously well-rounded in the passing game, athletic and unselfish, and gives up his body willingly to block when needed. And he’s always, always there. He’s missed two games due to injury in the last nine seasons.

While the other parts of the passing game get fine-tuned with Mahomes, the reliance on Kelce continues to win games for the AFC’s number one seed. Some things never change.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

NFL owners meetings: TNF flex, Roger Goodell contract


PHOENIX, Az. – On the agenda here and elsewhere, 32 days before the next tentpole event, the draft:

1. The league really wants the Thursday flex. I’m dubious it’ll pass. We can all agree this seems insane. Moving a game from 1 p.m. Sunday to 8:20 p.m. Sunday is inconvenient, to say the least, for the fans in attendance. Moving it three days earlier, as is on the agenda for a vote here, is a punch in the face to the fans who’ve planned trips to see games and either won’t be able to see a game played three days earlier or will have lives turned upside down in order to do so. But I’m told this is something Roger Goodell really wants to have in his tool box, to prevent awful games for a partner already struggling with audience share, Amazon. But coaches hate the idea. “Really hate it,” one of them told me here Sunday. In discussions with those who want this to pass, one told me, “It might make sense to max it out at one per season.” It still will be bad for the product and for the fans in-stadium, but it is sensible to legislate not being able to do it more than once per year.

2. The Goodell contract. Roger Goodell, 64, is signed as commissioner through March 2024, and Adam Schefter reported last week he’s expected to get an extension. Whether that happens this week or at the May meetings, it seems to be a matter of time. Goodell is approaching a milestone in the annals of the 104-year-old pro game. By the time training camp begins, Goodell will have the second-longest tenure of any NFL commissioner since World War II. The longest tenures:

 Pete Rozelle, Feb. 1960-Nov. 1989: 29 years, 9 months.

 Paul Tagliabue, Nov. 1989-Sept. 2006: 16 years, 10 months.

 Roger Goodell, Sept. 2006-present: 16 years, 7 months.

For those who will want Goodell replaced—for any of myriad reasons—remember four things: He works for the owners, who are mostly happy with his performance; he has kept the game from any work stoppages that resulted in lost regular-season or playoff games, and this CBA doesn’t expire till early 2031; he has lorded over a league that dominates the sports landscape even when it’s not playing games; and there’s the matter of franchise values. Average value of a franchise in 2006, when he took over: $898 million. Denver sold last year for five times that. Washington could sell this year for seven times that. Plus, flourishing through COVID-19. That’s why you won’t hear anyone, even Goodell’s occasional league rivals like Jerry Jones, lobbying for a change at the top. Goodell is in a power position for a three- or four-year extension.

Trolling the Biltmore lobby Sunday morning, I ran into one high-ranking club official and asked about the Goodell extension. “Think back to 2006. If you told any owner they’d have 16 years of labor peace, labor deals that lasted into 2030, two teams in L.A., a great stadium in L.A., franchise values way up, they’d all sign for that. They’d more than sign for that.” He’s right—even with the ham-handed handling of the Daniel Snyder ruination of the Washington franchise. Goodell isn’t perfect. But his predecessors weren’t either. Rozelle had labor stoppages and a nonstop war with Al Davis. Tagliabue was late to the party on head trauma. Commissioners must be judged on the balance of their tenures.

3. Noto contendre? So who will replace Goodell when the day comes? Speculation will center on Brian Rolapp, as it should, and Troy Vincent if the league looks internally for Goodell’s replacement, with Rolapp having an edge among active league office execs. Some club executives—Mark Donovan (Kansas City), Tom Garfinkel (Miami), Kevin Demoff (Rams)—could surface as well. My not-so-dark horse is Anthony Noto, the CEO of personal finance giant SoFi, and former CFO of the NFL (2008-2010). Strong profile: West Point grad, masters at Wharton, former COO of Twitter. Noto, 54, left the league on very good terms, is a huge football fan, and knows how to make money. Right up the owners’ alley.

4. The Snyder story. Most league people don’t expect a resolution here. The feeling is it’s somewhere between likely and very likely that Snyder ends up selling the entire franchise and not just a piece. Here’s an interesting thing I found out Sunday: One source with significant financial knowledge about the league said Snyder is highly unlikely to get his dream price for the team–$7 billion. Snyder, this source said, is more likely to sell the full asset for something just over $6 billion. Not bad. That’s still 7.5 times the price he paid for the franchise 24 years ago. How many businesses get that kind of returns over a quarter-century, particularly while running the business into the ground as Snyder has done?

Time is running out for Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

5. I remember when punting mattered. Interesting that when Troy Vincent discussed punting on an NFL conference call Friday, his first comment was about how it is “the most penalized play, the most injurious play in the game.” Catch his drift? The NFL wants to significantly cut down on punts in the game. There’s a proposal here to have touchbacks on punts returned to the 25-yard line, not the 20-, in part to encourage teams with a fourth down near midfield to go for it instead of punting it away. But also because the returners parked around the 10-yard line might let more punts go in hopes that they bounce into the end zone.

6. Bryce Young helped himself more than C.J. Stroud in their pro days last week, from the sound of it. A rep of a team that will likely draft a quarterback this year told me Sunday: “If you watch Bryce Young, and you didn’t know he was 5’10”, you wouldn’t think about his height. It was a disadvantage from the tape I watched.” This team has Young as its top quarterback, for what it’s worth. I’d been told previously that Young, in not getting many passes batted down at the line, has a sense of playing bigger than he is. It’s just one of the factors that has to be weighing on Carolina as the Panthers consider what to do at number one—take Young, or take the quarterback five inches taller in Stroud. As of Sunday night, no team here had been in contact with the Panthers about trading the top pick, and it’d likely be a useless venture, at least now. Carolina has no interest in moving the pick.

7. The Lamar saga. Day 12 of Lamar Jackson on the rested free-agent market, and no news is bad news. Not a soul here is even whispering about the prospect of Jackson getting an offer sheet, and there’s no sign of talks between the Ravens and Jackson to try to rekindle contract discussions. All I can say is the Ravens had better, deep in the back of their pragmatic minds, start to consider veteran alternatives—and maybe even the rookie second- and third-round QB market.

8. Re the other rules proposals. I give the proposal to have a third QB active as an extra player on gamedays—call it The Brock Purdy Rule—a good shot to pass if the league can figure out a way to make it ironclad that only emergency QBs will be used as the third player. I am not optimistic about passage for the Rams’ proposal to make roughing-the-quarterback reviewable by replay. Solid point by Rams COO Kevin Demoff Sunday: “We’re not increasing the number of challenges per team, which stays at two. This is a call that often swings momentum in the game. I don’t understand why making it reviewable is so controversial.” He’s right, but too many teams in the league are against any expansion of replay.

9. Bobby Wagner. Some buzz here about the return of Wagner to Seattle on a one-year deal over the weekend for his age-33 season, his 12th in the league. This is not just Seattle bringing the highest-rated linebacker in football in 2022 (per PFF) back after his one-year detour to the Rams. It is a tribute to Wagner being mature and burning no bridges when he was a cap casualty with the Seahawks last spring, and to the Seahawks for knowing Wagner’s value to the franchise and the defense he helped become the Legion of Boom—and, frankly, to Wagner’s value to the 2023 team. Too often, long and valued relationships get thrown in the garbage because the business of football interferes, and Wagner was smart enough to understand the sport and the business to not burn those bridges. And it’s a tribute to Seattle GM John Schneider for how he handled Wagner since drafting him in the second round of the 2012 draft. The mutual respect drips from this return. Let it be a model for other great players and franchises.

10. On football as rugby. The NFL will very likely continue to allow ball carriers to be pushed from behind in 2023, defying the aesthetics of a sport that is not rugby and subjecting more quarterbacks to be treated like endangered objects in the middle of trash-compactors. Three reasons why the Competition Committee doesn’t have a proposal on the agenda to eliminate the play at this week’s meetings:

  • Despite some opposition to the play, I’m told the league and the Competition Committee knew there were at least nine teams solidly against changing the rule that allows runners to be assisted from behind. Committee chair Rich McKay said Friday there are “certainly not” 24 teams that think the rule should be changed. Since at least 24 teams would have had to vote to change the rule, it was fruitless to bring it to a vote here.
  • The Competition Committee was not unanimously for changing the rule. Under committee rules, that’s necessary to bring a rule out of committee for a vote by the 32 teams.
  • There’s also pro-Eagles sentiment I’ve heard, sentiment that goes like this: The Eagles did nothing wrong. They played by the rules that were on the books, succeeded, and we’re not going to punish them for that.

It’s counter to the NFL’s on-and-on emphasis on player safety to not adjust this rule, or to eliminate it. Frankly, it’s mind-boggling. The Eagles had incredible success (they were 37 of 41 last year on QB sneaks, many of which featured two players pushing Jalen Hurts from behind), and Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore also experimented with assisting the runner from behind. Coaches in Denver and Seattle have said they’ll work on the technique for 2023. When one successful team has a 90 percent success rate, as the Eagles did on the sneak, well, why wouldn’t other teams adopt it?

My problem, aside from the fact that it’s not a football play, is that it’s only a matter of time before a quarterback gets hurt on the play. In the Super Bowl, on one Hurts sneak, Kansas City sent a defensive lineman, missile-like, over the scrum at the line of scrimmage. How dangerous is a 290-pound projectile hurtling toward a quarterback? How fortunate is it that he, or Hurts, was not concussed on that play?

“There are people within the committee and people within the survey that weren’t big fans of the play and were concerned about the safety aspect of it,” McKay said.

So the NFL will wait until a quarterback gets hurt. Then it will take action, presumably—after the position the league has sworn to protect is diminished by an injury to, perhaps, a marquee player.

On Friday, I called a defensive assistant coach on a team that played the Eagles last season and asked about how they coached to defend the play. He said there are four keys: try to get the offensive line to false start by studying the Eagles’ cadence and drawing them to jump; “submarine” the offensive line by getting lower than the blockers and fire off aggressively at the snap; if necessary, as Kansas City did, go over the top to be physical with the quarterback; and studying the formation to see which center-guard hole can be divided by a rusher with a linebacker assisting him from behind, if need be.

“I think other teams will try to employ it, yes,” this assistant coach said. “And then after you do all that, I still think it’s important to hit the quarterback. It can be dangerous, but if it’s going to be legal to do, we’ve got to do something to try to stop it.”

One other thing, this coach said: “It’s hard, almost impossible, to simulate the play at full speed in practice. Too much of a chance of someone getting hurt.”

I think the NFL’s going to live to regret this inaction.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column