LAS VEGAS — If Opening Night at Super Bowl LVIII was any indication, the red-clad Chiefs are walking into a road-game environment at Allegiant Stadium Sunday afternoon.
“I love the boos more than I love the cheers,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said of the partisan San Francisco crowd on Monday night. “Keep ’em coming, Niners’ gang. Keep ’em coming.”
Virtual home-field advantage in the Super Bowl might beat the literal road game feel of the one Super Bowl Patrick Mahomes has lost. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were on their home field in Tampa in Super Bowl LV.
The Chiefs are 3-0 in these playoffs with one home game, winning at Buffalo and Baltimore after a wild-card win over the Dolphins.
“We’re not overly concerned about who’s going to be in the stadium,” Chiefs center Creed Humphrey said. “We’re there to play the game. At the end of the day, it’s going to be 11 on 11. We’ve kind of gone on the road, playing in away stadiums the last two games, it’s one of those things we’re if we’re in a hostile environment, we’re ready to roll.”
Kelce said “ain’t no jitters. I’m fired up,” when asked if the raucous 49ers’ fanbase will impact the Chiefs on Sunday.
The Chiefs have only two remaining defensive starters from their Super Bowl LIV triumph over the San Francisco 49ers. And the 49ers’ roster is flooded with change, including Brock Purdy at quarterback and Christian McCaffrey at running back, two players among the five NFL MVP finalists in 2023.
“More weapons,” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said of the biggest difference in this iteration of the 49ers. “Christian McCaffrey. You’ve got Deebo (Samuel) playing at a high level. You’ve got one of the best tight ends in the league (George Kittle). Brock Purdy. They’re a completely different team now.”
But Jones said the Chiefs are better on defense for the same reasons.
“Grittier, we’re younger, we’re faster,” Jones said.
BIGGEST LOSSES OF MY LIFE
Kelce said nobody puts higher expectations on the Chiefs than the team’s leaders. Kansas City’s record-setting tight end.
“That expectation has become a demand at this point. The years we haven’t won it since we won our first one, they’ve felt like the biggest losses of my life,” Kelce said. “Having that mentality, year in, year out, putting the expectations on yourself.”
Kelce has 23 receptions for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the 2023 postseason. He said he went out to his way to make sure teammates understood where he was investing his time and attention since his courtship of a certain famous female singer became a banner storyline around the Chiefs.
“I’ve juggled the perception of my focus. Being aware of that, I never wanted to make the people on this team, the people in this Kansas City Chiefs’ building feel like I wasn’t focused on the task at hand. That’s winning football games,” Kelce said. “Being able to juggle that, making sure everybody realizes my focus is in the right area, especially when I’m in the building, I think that’s been the biggest point.”
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media
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