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Chiefs TE Travis Kelce on rookie WR Rashee Rice's growth: 'I think he's come a long way'

Fresh off an impressive playoff debut, Rashee Rice has elevated his game to another level during the twilight of his rookie season.

Rice had a career day in the Kansas City Chiefs' 26-7 wild-card win over the Miami Dolphins last week, producing eight receptions for 130 receiving yards and a touchdown in his first postseason game.

Rice set the Chiefs' franchise record with the most receiving yards by a rookie in a season all time, including playoffs.

Veteran tight end Travis Kelce hopes Rice can keep it going in Sunday's Divisional Round game against the Buffalo Bills.

"I mean, obviously, I'm proud of him," Kelce said of Rice's postseason debut on Friday, via the team transcript. "I think he's come a long way, and I think he's still ascending as a player in this offense. It's just been fun to see him rise to the occasion and really just catapult us in a lot of ways both in the pass game and run game.

"It's been awesome to see him accept the challenges every single week. Week 10 through 15 as a rookie you can kind of get lost a little bit, and he's been real focused throughout that and really hasn't hit a rookie wall as much as at least I did for sure."

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The "rookie wall" is non-existent for Rice at the moment. In the Super Wild Card Round, the second-round pick was one of two rookies to have eight-plus receptions and 130-plus receiving yards in a playoff game all time, per NFL Research. Heading into Sunday's game, Rice leads the Chiefs with 1,068 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns, including playoffs.

To start the 2023 season, Rice was on the field but not as much in the Chiefs' first six games. It wasn't until Week 7 when he drew his first start and saw an increase in snaps, receptions and production throughout the season. The Chiefs were not buyers during the trade deadline, as Andy Reid and his staff remained confident in their pass catchers. 

Patrick Mahomes has found chemistry with Rice at the right time. With Kelce being a focus for opposing defensive coordinators, Rice has emerged as a safety blanket for Mahomes when the tight end is covered. Since Week 12, Rice has averaged 92.6 receiving yards, which is the sixth-most in the league during that span.

On Friday, Kelce praised Rice's progress throughout the season has had an impact on Kansas City's offense.

"I would say just his attention to detail, his ability to feel out defenses -- be confident in what he's seeing in the defense to be able to find voids," Kelce said. "I think he's been pretty spot on with that and open to learning more about that kind of stuff. When you're open to learning about stuff in this building you're going to figure it out."

The Chiefs will need Rice, Kelce and other playmakers involved in Buffalo as Mahomes will play in his first career postseason game outside of Kansas City or a neutral Super Bowl site on Sunday night.

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