Over time, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce learned how to take ownership of a route.
He literally commandeered them from former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
“He ended up putting his own little flavor on certain routes,” the Bears head coach said Thursday. “It might be drawn a certain way in the playbook and then he does it a little bit different, but it works. That’s a Kelce route. That’s Kelce doing his thing.”
Nagy had a front-row seat to watch the maturation of Kelce, a 2013 third-round draft pick by the Chiefs. Kelce flourished in coach Andy Reid’s offense, and under offensive coordinator Nagy in 2016 and 2017.
“He’s a rare talent and he’s going to be that way for a while,” Nagy said. “He’s very, very friendly to the quarterback. All over the field. It can be backed up at your own 5-yard line, it can be in the red zone … He’s a mismatch in a lot of different ways.”
For Bears safety Eddie Jackson, the proof is in the pudding. There’s a reason Kelce is seventh in the NFL with 1,131 receiving yards.
“Aw man, Kelce’s Kelce,” Jackson said.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano called Kelce “crafty.” Not bad for a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end.
“He’s obviously got great synergy with the quarterback,” Pagano said. “There’s a trust level there. So it’s all hands on deck to try to take care of him.”
Special specialist: Bears kickoff return man Cordarrelle Patterson is heading to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career. He leads the NFL with 799 kick return yards and is second with 29.6 yards per kick return. His one kick return touchdown this season went for 102 yards against New Orleans.
He has also been a huge contributor in punt coverage. He has six special teams tackles.
“Not a lot of guys have his size and his speed and his strength and his instincts,” Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. “I think that’s what makes him just really a special football player. I think sometimes people say, 'Well what is he? What does he do?' He’s a good football player. He can do a lot of things. You don’t see a lot of good returners be good cover guys. He’s one of those guys.”
Eddie Jackson and Khalil Mack are also heading to the Pro Bowl.
“It’s always a blessing when you get respect from the coaches and players around the league,” Jackson said.
No word on Hicks: Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said he has not talked with coaches about potentially sitting out this week. Hicks, nursing an elbow injury, returned from injured reserve to play at Green Bay on Sunday. Multiple times, Hicks left the game due to his ailing elbow, but he kept returning to the field.
With the Bears out of playoff contention, no one would blame them if they shut Hicks down for the remaining two games.
“We haven’t had any discussions, as far as not playing,” Hicks said Thursday. “Just making sure that I do the right thing for my body and making sure that I don’t go out there and hurt myself more. I’m sure that’s on the mind of the coaches and GM.”
Hicks said he hopes to avoid having surgery on his elbow after the season.
“We’re in a good place in just making sure that it doesn’t get damaged any further,” Hicks said.