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Chiefs' Travis Kelce the latest tight end to test Broncos' defense


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Travis Kelce is a tight end in name only.

Kansas City's leader in receptions is as likely to make plays from the backfield and the 'X' or 'Z' receiver positions as he is from a traditional tight-end alignment.

"He is a route-running tight end and he runs routes like a receiver," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said.

It was from one of the outside spots that Kelce scored on an 80-yard touchdown reception against the Broncos last Dec. 25, turning a bubble-screen reception that began one yard behind the line of scrimmage into an untouched sprint down the right sideline.

Kelce racked up 261 yards on 19 receptions against the Broncos last year, breaking 100 yards in both of the Chiefs' games against Denver. His eight 100-yard games over the last two seasons are the most in the NFL, matched by Atlanta's Julio Jones, Indianapolis' T.Y. Hilton and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. No other tight end has more than four 100-yard games in the last two seasons.

"He's definitely one of the best tight ends -- top two, top three," safety Will Parks said. "It's going to be a big challenge.

"Last year it was kind of rough, being a rookie going up against a savvy vet like that [who's] crafty and can get open in short spaces, is able to use his body better than anybody."

Because Kelce's route-running resembles that of a receiver and his build is that of a classic tight end, he is one of the most nightmarish individual matchups in the NFL.

"Most corners are too small, linebackers can't run with him and safeties are sometimes not big enough," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "He is definitely a special talent when it comes to catching the football."

Joseph said he plans to use "multiple guys" to defend Kelce; safeties, linebackers and cornerbacks will likely all play a role. But given the threat posed by running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Broncos cannot overcommit resources to Kelce.

"The thing when you play teams that have talent at multiple positions, you have to pick and choose what you're going to do," Woods said. "If you turn all of your attention to one guy, now you have two or three other guys that are one-on-one or you create holes in you defense if you're not as stout versus the run.

"We have to be very careful in terms of what we're going to do. We do have a plan multiple ways in terms of trying to take care of him if he becomes an issue. He may have a few catches -- we just can't let him have a big one."

Defending Kelce won't just be about using multiple players, but also various tactics counter the Chiefs' success getting Kelce open.

"Last year, they had a good plan for us. They knew we manned up a lot, so they did a lot of pick routes, which caused him to get open," Parks said. There were a lot of things that they did, and kudos to them for scheming us.

"But it's a new year, same group but new mentality. We're going to go out there and get the job done."

Can Chris Harris Jr. and the Broncos' defense slow down Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill? That will be just one battle to watch Monday night. (Photos: AP)

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