How 49ers can stop Travis Kelce in Super Bowl: Ex-NFL star reveals secret to slowing down Chiefs’ tight end

How 49ers can stop Travis Kelce in Super Bowl: Ex-NFL star reveals secret to slowing down Chiefs’ tight end

If the San Francisco 49ers are going to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, one thing they’re almost certainly going to have to do is figure out a way to slow down Travis Kelce.

The Chiefs tight end has been on a tear in the playoffs: Not only has he averaged 87.3 yards per game in the postseason, but he’s also scored three touchdowns.

When Kelce starts to heat up, the Chiefs are almost impossible to beat. Since Patrick Mahomes took over as Kansas City’s starting QB in 2018, the Chiefs are 32-5 in any game where Kelce has at least eight receptions. The Chiefs are also 11-1 in the playoffs when Kelce catches at least 75% of his targets from Mahomes.

Basically, if Kelce has a big game, Kansas City is likely going to win. So how do you slow down the Chiefs’ star tight end?

Former All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly tried to answer that exact question during a recent interview on “The Up and Adams Show.” Kuechly is a former five-time All-Pro who was one of the best ever to play his position, and he had some interesting things to say about what it takes to stop Kelce.

“You try to study as much as you can, you try to anticipate routes,” Kuechly said. “He runs normal routes, he runs fades — like the back-shoulder ball he caught against Baltimore — but nothing he does is truly on script, so he can come up, find a window, move out of a window. He has the freedom to find space and sit down.”

As Kuechly notes, one reason Kelce is difficult to stop is because there’s no rhyme or reason to what he’s going to do. One of Kelce’s biggest catches against the Ravens came on a play where he RAN THE WRONG ROUTE.

The point here is that Mahomes has the ability to find Kelce, no matter what happens on any given play. If the play breaks down, Kelce will run a scramble drill and get open. If Kelce runs the wrong route, he’ll find open space and Mahomes will get him the ball.

So how do you even begin to try and stop that?

“What we always talk about with guys like that: You have to keep your eyes on Travis,” Kuechly said. “You can’t take your eyes off of him and put them on Mahomes.

If he comes out of a break, you think it’s a typical out-route, you put your eyes back to the quarterback and you lose sight of Kelce. And then, once you lose sight of him, Mahomes knows that, Kelce knows that. Now, he’s going to pivot and get open.”

According to Kuechly, the secret to slowing down Kelce is to watch his eyes.

“When you play guys like that, that have such a good ability to go off the cuff, you got to have your eyes on them, you have to pin hips, you have to stay attached,” Kuechly said.

“And then, when the ball is in the air, the one tell that guys like him have are his eyes. His eyes are always going to tell you when he’s tracking the ball.

The good guys, you can’t read their hands, because they’re going to wait until the last second to throw the hands up, but with Kelce, if you can stay attached and keep your eyes on him, you can read his eyes.

When his eyes begin to focus is when you can play through his hands. It sounds super easy, but there’s a reason that he’s Travis Kelce.”

If any 49ers defensive players are reading, you might want to give Kuechly a call.

And just for the record, Kuechly did have some success against Kelce in his career. During Kuechly’s eight seasons in the NFL (2012-19), which all came with the Panthers, he only faced Kelce once and that came in a 2016 game where the Chiefs tight end was held to just three catches for 31 yards.

The receptions total was the third lowest of the season for Kelce while his yardage total was the fourth lowest.

If the 49ers hold Kelce to three catches for 31 years, they’ll probably be feeling pretty good about their chances of winning the Super Bowl.

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