The Best Receiving Performances in Kansas City Chiefs History

Austin J

In Part I of Game Balls, we looked at the greatest quarterback performances in Kansas City Chiefs history. In Part II, we explore the greatest receiving performances in the franchise's past. While the Chiefs haven't historically boasted All-Pro talent at wide receiver, the franchise has been blessed with two of the greatest tight ends of all time in Tony Gonzalez and Travis Kelce, and has recently seen Tyreek Hill emerge as a prolific weapon out wide. But the undisputed greatest performance by a Chiefs receiver belongs to an undrafted free agent you might not have ever heard of.

STEPHONE PAIGE

December 22, 1985

Chiefs 38, Chargers 34

8 receptions, 309 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns

Younger Chiefs fans are likely unfamiliar with Paige, an undrafted free agent who played nine seasons with the team. While never selected to a Pro Bowl, he finished his career with over 6,000 yards receiving and 49 touchdowns, with standout campaigns of 11 touchdowns (1986) and 1,021 yards (1990). But his greatest day came three days before Christmas in 1985. No NFL receiver had broken 300 yards in a game since Cloyce Box first accomplished the feat with 302 yards receiving in 1950. Paige, playing in his 48th career game, had never broken even 100 yards receiving. But that day, he caught 8 balls for a staggering 309 yards. This was an NFL record at the time — broken four years later by Flipper Anderson's 336 — and still stands as the third-highest single-game receiving yardage total of all time, one of just five 300 yard games ever.

Paige reached his mark on just eight catches, averaging a hilarious 38.63 yards per reception. No other player has gotten to 300 yards on fewer than 12 catches. Full play-by-play data is unavailable this deep into Chiefs' history, but we do know that Paige scored on an 84-yard pass from Bill Kenney, and on a 56-yarder from the infamous Todd Blackledge. Paige may be relatively unknown to younger Chiefs fans, but his incredible performance in 1985 should be celebrated — it's one of the greatest in the history of any NFL franchise, let alone Kansas City's. Fun fact: Paige also owns the third-best single-game receiving yardage total in Chiefs' history, a 206-yard game in his penultimate season. 

SAMMY WATKINS

September 8, 2019

Chiefs 40, Jaguars 26

9 receptions, 198 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns

The Lizard King himself. Watkins is a polarizing player — inconsistent and injury-prone, not to mention highly eccentric off the field, but oozing with potential. On this day, Watkins converted that "potential" label into pure energy, vaporizing the Jaguars' ballyhooed defense to the tune of 198 yards and three touchdowns. Sammy narrowly missed nabbing the fourth 200-yard game in Chiefs history, but his scoring bonanza seals his place on this list.

TYREEK HILL

November 19, 2018

Rams 54, Chiefs 51

10 receptions, 215 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns

You knew Hill would find his way onto this list. The only question was which game would rank as his best. In just 42 NFL starts, Hill has 12 100-yard receiving games, including a 169-yard, two-TD performance against the Chargers in Week 1 of the 2018 season (catching Patrick Mahomes' first NFL touchdown, and throwing in a punt return TD for good measure); a 185-yard, two-TD performance against the Jets in 2017; a wild 11-catch (on 19 targets!), 157-yard effort against Tennessee this past November; a clutch 139-yard stand against Baltimore which included a legendary catch on 4th and 9; and a brilliant 142-yard, two-TD game in Foxborough in Mahomes' first test against Bill Belichick. But this game against the Rams — the highest-scoring game in NFL history  remains Hill's greatest show to date. Hill had four 20+ yard receptions in this game, capped by a 74-yard touchdown where he was literally the only player visible on the broadcast view.

TRAVIS KELCE

December 2, 2018

Chiefs 40, Raiders 33

12 receptions, 168 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns

Obviously Zeus was going to find his way onto this list, and this game against the surprisingly feisty Raiders was his ticket. In the Chiefs' first game after running back Kareem Hunt's surprising release, Patrick Mahomes  also missing Sammy Watkins  targeted Kelce 13 times, connecting for 12 completions. Kelce's 168 yards were the 11th-highest single-game mark for a tight end in NFL history, tied with Rob Gronkowski's most prolific game. Kelce became one of just four tight ends with 150+ yards and 2+ touchdowns in a single game, along with Gronkowski, Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, and longtime 49er Vernon Davis. This was Kelce's second 160+ yard game, and only two other tight ends have as many or more: Gronkowski (3) and Jared Cook (2). 

Honorable Mentions:

OTIS TAYLOR

October 18, 1971

Chiefs 38, Steelers 16

6 receptions, 190 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns

Taylor, along with quarterback Len Dawson, was one of the original great Kansas City Chiefs. He led the NFL in receiving in 1971  just one year after the upstart American Football League merged into the National Football League  and finished fifth in 1972. Taylor's performance is notable enough for the production alone, but it also marks the first time a former AFL player went for 190+ yards and 2+ touchdowns over an original NFL team. Lamar Hunt's Chiefs were amongst the AFL's finest teams, and games like Taylor's proved that the AFL could play with the big boys.

TONY GONZALEZ

September 29, 2002

Chiefs 48, Dolphins 30

7 receptions, 140 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns

Of course, no list would be complete without Gonzalez, who currently sits at sixth all-time in receiving yards. Oddly, Gonzalez's three most prolific yardage games all came in Chiefs' losses, but his fourth-best total, in this beatdown of Miami, was arguably the finest game of his career. Surprisingly, this was Gonzalez's only three-TD game  he scored two TDs in a game 17 times.

DWAYNE BOWE

November 28, 2010

Chiefs 42, Seahawks 24

13 receptions, 170 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns

Astute readers will note that Bowe, as an honorable mention, actually exceeded Travis Kelce's game from above in both yards and touchdowns. While this is true, Kelce's performance at tight end  a less prolific position than wideout  earns him the nod. Still, Bowe's performance cannot go unmentioned. 

For More Kansas City Chiefs Game Balls: Click here for Part I: Greatest QB Performances. Click here for Part II: Greatest Receiving Performances. Click here for Part III: Greatest Running Back Performances. Click here for Part IV: Greatest Defensive Performances.

For more Chiefs talk, click here to check out Austin and Taylor Witt in their podcast, It's Always Sunny in Chiefs Kingdom.

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