For one half of Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII, Travis Kelce was conspicuously quiet.
With the notable exception of his furious sideline outburst at Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, the only peep Kelce made over the first two quarters was a single catch on a single target for a single yard.
Then the man known to many as Mr. Taylor Swift started making noise. It wasn’t overwhelming production — nine catches for 93 yards — but for the Chiefs and one of their emotional leaders, it helped change momentum. The San Francisco 49ers defense that had stifled Kansas City in the first half suddenly became vulnerable, the relentless pass rush of Nick Bosa and Chase Young slowed down somewhat, and the breaks that had been going against the Chiefs suddenly went in their favor.
By the end of regulation, Kelce was making a ruckus, barreling over 49ers defenders to set up the Chiefs’ game-tying field goal and force overtime, where he picked up a key first down deep in 49ers territory.
That play – a gritty seven-yard gain down to 3-yard line – would set up Patrick Mahomes’ game-winning touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman. And with the 25-22 victory in hand, Kelce and the Chiefs were champions for the third time in five years.
Kelce celebrates winning Super Bowl LVIII vs the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium
Travis Kelce screams at Chiefs head coach Andy Reid after a Kansas City turnover
Taylor Swift and Blake Lively are seen watching the Chiefs in front of Travis’ brother Jason
Kelce runs after a catch against the 49ers during Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas on Sunday
‘Viva Las Vegas!’ Kelce wailed from the post-game podium with the Lombardi Trophy in hand.
In addition to his Elvis rendition, Kelce also added in some Beastie Boys (‘You got to fight for your right!’) but his most important post-game comment was something he’s been saying for years.
‘I love these guys!’ Kelce screamed, repeating a sentiment he’s been sharing with his Chiefs teammates throughout their latest Super Bowl run.
It was, to put it mildly, a dramatic departure for someone who was seen furiously screaming in his coach’s face only hours earlier.
‘I was just telling him how much I love him,’ Kelce joked about the sideline spat with Reid.
Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers argues with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce sets up the game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter on Sunday
It’s impossible to say if Kelce’s second-half resurgence was the product of an Achilles injury to 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who is known for his ability to defend tight ends in pass coverage.
But even by his own admission, Kelce ‘played like a jabroni’ for the first two periods, which is to say, he blames himself for his lack of production over that time.
It’s impossible to say if Kelce’s second-half resurgence was the product of an injury to 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw (pictured)
The 34-year-old tight end did have two nice blocks in the first quarter, one of which sprung Isiah Pacheco for a 10-yard gain. But in lieu of catches and yardage, Kelce supplied some much-needed fire in the first half by getting into the face of Bosa and even his own coach, Reid, during that momentary sideline outburst.
Ultimately, Kelce needed to be pulled away by teammate Jerrod McKinnon after grabbing Reid’s arm during.
Kelce was seemingly upset to be removed from the game on a play that ended in a Chiefs turnover (Pacheco’s second-quarter fumble), but Reid didn’t seem bothered by the incident and No. 87 was back on the field for the next possession.
‘Even if they bump me to the other side of the 50, I love that,’ Reid said afterwards. ‘He knows I love that.. The guy wants to play.’
That fire is nothing new to the Chiefs, who have been harnessing it since ‘Big Yeti’ burst into the league in 2013.
It’s helped Kelce become an All-Pro and likely Hall of Famer. It’s also why the Chiefs called upon Kelce to deliver an inspiring Saturday night speech to his teammates, some of whom were reportedly brought to tears.
‘The best talk/speech I’ve ever heard,’ a Chiefs coach told SI.com’s Albert Breer.
Travis Kelce stands for the national anthem before appearing in his fourth Super Bowl
The Super Bowl was nothing new for Kelce entering Sunday. This was his fourth appearance in five seasons, and while his romance with Swift has added an extra layer of media attention, he wasn’t exactly an unknown before this season.
Kelce already held the tight end record for receiving yards in a Super Bowl, racking up 133 on 10 catches in the Chiefs’ loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in three years earlier. But he was nearly as impressive in Kansas City’s two recent Super Bowl wins, recording a dozen catches for 124 yards and a pair of key touchdowns in wins over the 49ers (LIV) and Philadelphia Eagles (LVII).
And it was last year’s victory over Philadelphia that helped make Travis and his brother Jason, an Eagles center, mainstream celebrities. The pair already had a joint podcast, New Heights, but the brotherly rivals and their bank manager mother, Donna, quickly saw a wave of endorsement deals while become regular fodder for morning talkshows.
Travis even parlayed the rise in popularity and his second Super Bowl ring into a gig hosting Saturday Night Live last March.
But nothing has compared to the 2023 campaign since it emerged that Kelce and Swift were in a relationship.
The two had crossed paths at one of her concerts in July, but it wasn’t until September when she began attending his games that they became official. Since then, the previously separate NFL and Taylor Swift universes have consumed each other.
Attendees at Allegiant Stadium were seen wearing ‘Mr. Swift’ Chiefs replica jerseys and sweatshirts emblazoned with a modified NFL logo reading: ‘Taylor’s Version.’
Ice Spice, Ashley Avignone, Jason Kelce (centre, second row) , Taylor Swift and Blake Lively are seen durign Super Bowl LIII. Donna Kelce, meanwhile, is seated next to her son Jason
Ex-President Donald Trump attempted to tap into the couple’s palpable star power on Sunday
Former President Donald Trump attempted to tap into the couple’s palpable star power on Sunday morning with a social media post accusing Swift of somehow being disloyal to him, while saying Kelce ‘may be a Liberal.’
If the Republican presidential candidate’s Truth Social post was an attempt to steal some of their spotlight for himself, it only worked until kickoff, by which point football fans and Swifties had better things to worry about.
And on Sunday, in just the second overtime game in Super Bowl history, both parties got what they wanted: Taylor made her customary cameo on the scoreboard, where she was seen chugging a beer, while the 49ers and Chiefs delivered one of the more dramatic Super Bowl finishes in recent memory.
Best of all, for Swifties and Chiefs supporters, the game ended with Kansas City’s fourth Super Bowl title, and their first of the Taylor Swift era.
‘I’ll see you all next year!’ Kelce said on his way off the podium.
For a league that is finally tapping into Taylor Swift’s loyal army of fans, that would be welcome news.