Philosophical Question: Was the Travis Kelce Fumble a Chiefs Turnover, or an Eagles Takeaway?
A pivotal play on Monday night was Travis Kelce fumbling in the red zone with the Chiefs up 17-14 at the start of the fourth quarter:
Travis Kelce fumble in the redzone 😳
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 21, 2023
On replay, the broadcast showed a beautiful punch from Bradley Roby to knock the ball loose.
It doesn’t get more clinical than this:
This punch out by Bradley Roby is superb 👊
— NFL (@NFL) November 21, 2023
What’s interesting is to comb through Big J writeups and social media, maybe listen to sports talk radio and parse the various responses to this play and the Patrick Mahomes interception as well. You’ll hear the narrative that the Chiefs turned the ball over twice in the red zone, which is technically true, but I’d pose to you a philosophical question –
When does a turnover count as a takeaway?
Or, in this instance specifically, did Travis Kelce fumble, or did Bradley Roby knock the ball loose? Are both thoughts true at the same time? And if so, how much of the play is an error by the ball carrier, vs. a brilliant punch by the defender?
I honestly think it’s more of the latter. People are steering this storyline that the Chiefs lost because they coughed it up twice when they had a chance to extend their lead, but that’s a hell of a play by Roby in a critical moment. Maybe the Kevin Byard pick is a poor throw by Mahomes, but the still-relatively-new Eagles safety did read the play and snag it in the end zone, so he has to receive an arbitrary amount of credit for his part in the sequence.
The way you look at those two plays really defines the takeaway narrative for this game, because you’re shifting from Chiefs blame to Eagles credit. And oftentimes, the answer to the question runs parallel to typical Philadelphia glass half-full and glass half-empty reactions, i.e. standard Posidelphia and Negadelphia.
I wish I could find the quote, but I remember Brian Urlacher saying many years ago that he and his Bears teammates didn’t really use the word “turnover.” They considered fumbles and interceptions to be “takeaways,” and while we’re splitting hairs in a chicken/egg kind of way, the significance of the quote related to Urlacher’s mindset and philosophy. They look at these sequences as a credit to themselves, more than an error by the offense. And sure, naturally, they’re going to be biased towards their own unit, but you get the sense that when fans and media are crafting these storylines in 2023, the default pattern is chalk these up as offensive mistakes rather than superior plays from the defense.