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Behind Enemy Lines: The Genius of Travis Kelce

Nobody knows how instinctive the Kansas City Chiefs tight end is better than his Buffalo Bills counterpart, Dawson Knox.

As Dawson Knox's breakout season continues for the Buffalo Bills, we shift our attention for a few minutes to one of the men who helped make it possible: Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

Kelce and his Chiefs will host the Bills Sunday night, and Knox this week provided some insight into Kelce's genius.

Playing tight end is just as much art as it is science, Knox discovered from time spent with Kelce this past summer at Tight End University, the brainchild of Kelce, the San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle and retired player Greg Olsen.

The three-day extravaganza not only helped Knox with his releases and other mechanical issues but gave him rare insight into the savant-like qualities of the Chiefs' 2013 third-round draft pick.

His game includes improvisation and deception and whatever else it might take in a particular week.

Kelce has 636 catches for 8,193 yards and 51 touchdowns in 115 regular-season games and 83 more catches for 992 yards and nine TDs in 12 playoff contests. He has qualified for six Pro Bowls, is a three-time All-Pro and helped the Chiefs win it all after the 2019 season by catching all six targets in the Super Bowl, including a touchdown pass.

He played college football at Cincinnati but his final destination is pointing toward the opposite corner of Ohio, in Canton.

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"He kind of called himself the Picasso of routes," Knox said. "It might look like a certain type of route but it's going to be a little different, like Picasso used to draw humans. You know, little things might be different but it's still a human. So he kind of puts his own twist on stuff, but when he gets on the right timing with his quarterback, it's hard to cover that matchup, and it's something fun me and [QB] Josh [Allen] have been able to work on, just putting a little twist on different routes that can work out with us, timing-wise."

To be clear, Knox added, "we don't really call one certain route the Picasso Route, but there there are definitely little pieces of Travis's game that, you know, I've tried to adopt as my own."

Knox is not at Kelce's level yet, but the Bills don't necessarily need him to be.

What he's given them so far — 15 catches for 144 yards and four TDs — has him on pace to more than double all his previous season highs. His drop percentage has gone from 20.0 as a rookie to 9.1 last year to an acceptable 5.0 this season.

To be clear about Kelce, the art only works when applied alongside science.

"I learned a lot from him in terms of, I mean, he probably broke down film for two hours on one route for us," Knox said.

What this all means is that if the Bills prevail with the help of Knox on Sunday, Kelce will have had something to do with it.

But that's OK. There can be no genius without sharing.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to