Travis Kelce meltdown, explained: How Chiefs TE’s bump of Andy Reid in Super Bowl 58 became an instant meme

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The Super Bowl produces many iconic moments. From David Tyree’s helmet catch to Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception to the Philly Special, a handful of plays from the game’s 58-year history need only be mentioned to elicit a nostalgic reaction from NFL fans.

The Chiefs added to that folklore during their Super Bowl 58 win over the 49ers. Yet it isn’t the team’s game-winning touchdown that stands out but instead a tense sideline exchange between star tight end Travis Kelce and head coach Andy Reid. 

Kelce found himself frustrated in the first half, as San Francisco consistently stifled him and the Kansas City offense in the game’s early stages. Finally, the Chiefs completed a deep pass to Mecole Hardman, but Isiah Pacheco fumbled on the next play, handing possession back to the 49ers.

At that point, Kelce boiled over. He ran up to Reid on the sidelines and gave his coach a vigorous bump while screaming in his face.

Kelce’s meltdown immediately attracted social media attention, and the image of him screaming in Reid’s face became an instant meme. It also marked a turning of the tide for the Chiefs, whose offense woke up after a slow start to take a 25-22 win.

Here’s what to know about Kelce’s meltdown and its legacy as one of the lasting images from Super Bowl 58.

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Travis Kelce’s meltdown

Kelce’s meltdown occurred with about 12 minutes left in the second quarter of Super Bowl 58. Kansas City had just converted on its first big play β€” a 52-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Mecole Hardman β€” and was set up with a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line.

Reid called a running play to Pacheco to start the drive. The normally sure-handed running back fumbled while fighting for extra yardage and the 49ers recovered it. That squandered the Chiefs’ first real scoring opportunity of the game.

Kelce was irate after the fumble and let Reid know that he was upset. He got in the coach’s face to demonstrate his anger with the team’s offensive performance to that point.

That resulted in Kelce crashing into Reid. The 65-year-old coach stumbled but recovered quickly while Kelce’s teammate Jerick McKinnon ushered the tight end away from his coach to cool down.

Kelce’s brief but testy interaction with Reid became the story of the first half for the Chiefs. The defending champions scored just three points, while Kelce had just a single catch for one yard.

Kelce and Kansas City bounced back in the second half, with the Chiefs earning a 25-22 win and Kelce leading the team with nine catches and 93 receiving yards. But the tight end’s blowup at Reid still captivated fans even after the win.

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Why did Travis Kelce bump Andy Reid?

It was clear at the time of Kelce’s meltdown that he was upset with Kansas City’s offensive performance. The Chiefs punted on their first two drives of the game before fumbling away their lone early scoring chance while deep in Niners territory.

However, it also appeared that Kelce was annoyed that Reid had taken him off the field for the play during which Pacheco fumbled.

Indeed, the Chiefs subbed Kelce out after Hardman’s 52-yard reception despite being in the red zone. They opted to give him a snap off to play Noah Gray at tight end while aligning in 11 personnel β€” a formation consisting of one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.

Kelce was likely annoyed that he wasn’t tabbed to play the first red zone snap of the game. Meanwhile, Reid was probably looking to make sure his 34-year-old pass-catching weapon stayed fresh for the duration of the contest.

Neither Kelce nor Reid offered up much about the exchange after Kansas City’s Super Bowl win.

“I’m going to keep that between us unless my ‘mic’d up’ tells the world,” Kelce said during a postgame interview on ESPN. “But I was just telling him how much I love him.”

Reid also joked about the exchange, noting that he would have struck back against Kelce had he not been caught off-guard.

“He keeps me young,” Reid said of Kelce. “Tested that hip out. He caught me off-balance. Normally I’d give him a little bit, but I didn’t have any feet under me.”

On a more serious note, Kelce credited Reid for helping him keep his emotions in check during a poignant postgame news conference.

“He’s helped me a lot with that. With channeling that emotion and channeling that passion,” Kelce said. “I owe my entire career to that guy [and] being able to control kinda how emotional I get. I just love him.”

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Travis Kelce yelling at Andy Reid becomes an instant meme

While it doesn’t seem like Kelce or Reid is harboring hostility toward the other after winning their third Super Bowl together, NFL fans still had a lot of fun with the image of Kelce getting in Reid’s face. It circulated on social media quickly and instantly became the most popular meme from the game.

From jokes about the College Football Playoff to arguments about “The Wizard of Oz” and, of course, some Taylor Swift references, here are some of the best iterations of the Kelce and Reid meme.

This image will surely come back to bite Reid and Kelce should they have any sideline spats during the 2024 NFL season. Both are expected to return to the Chiefs for another season as they target an unprecedented Super Bowl “three-peat.”

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