Kadarius Toney touched the ball three times in Super Bowl LVII. He was on the field a total of eight snaps Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Yet Toney made his indelible mark in the Kansas City Chiefs’ second Super Bowl title in a four-year span.
“It is the biggest game of my life,” Toney said. “It was, for real.”
Toney only touched the ball once prior to the fourth quarter, a 12-yard punt return 10 minutes into the game. He wasn’t even targeted once in the game’s first 47-plus minutes. But Toney ended up playing a massive role in the Chiefs’ 38-35 victory.
The Chiefs had started the comeback after being down 10 at halftime, trailing 27-21 at the start of the fourth quarter. That’s when Patrick Mahomes hit Toney on what was the first of two wicked cuts by Chiefs receivers in the red zone. Against man coverage, Toney started in motion toward the formation, but at the snap he wheeled back the other direction to spring free for a wide-open 5-yard touchdown catch and the first Chiefs lead of the game.
On a night when other players had trouble with their footing, Toney made a vicious cut to spring free from the Eagles’ Darius Slay.
“We saw something a little bit different on tape and we knew that we could take advantage of what they weren’t doing,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “And Kadarius just did a hell of a job of finding a way to get himself open.”
But Toney’s biggest impact of the night arguably came on a non-TD. On just the Eagles’ second punt of the game, Toney made a tough grab of Arryn Siposs’ short, spiraling kick at the Kansas City 30-yard line. There wasn’t an Eagles player within 10 yards of him when Toney grabbed it, though, which Toney said made him smell “blood in the water.” He made Zach Pascal miss before sharply reversing across the grain to spring the game-changing return.
“I saw (an) opportunity,” Toney said. “In that situation, I made the right return and the right decision.”
Toney raced down the right sideline, and the Chiefs had a perfect wall set up. After Siposs missed another tackle attempt, Toney twisted his way down to the Philadelphia 5-yard line. The 65-yard punt return was the longest in Super Bowl history, topping Jordan Norwood’s 61-yarder in Super Bowl 50.
“I saw a lot of white jerseys in front of me,” Toney said. “At that moment, I was really excited to get the ball.”
The momentum was fully on the Chiefs’ side now. Two plays later, Skyy Moore — running the same route Toney had earlier, except on the opposite side — also walked in for a score, putting the Chiefs up by eight points.
Not long ago, this felt improbable. Toney was a first-round pick who was withering on the vine with the New York Giants, who seemingly didn’t know what to do with him. He was traded to the Chiefs, who were coming off their biggest win of the season at the time against the 49ers but still needed some extra juice for the offense and return game with Tyreek Hill shipped out in the offseason.
Toney didn’t have a massive offensive role with the Chiefs but flashed his game-breaking ability with a three-TD game (two receiving, one rushing) in the regular-season win over the Jaguars. In the playoff rematch against Jacksonville, Toney had 50 yards of offense and 23 punt-return yards before suffering an ankle injury the next week in the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals.
That put his Super Bowl availability in doubt. But Toney was cleared prior to the game and made the most of his limited opportunities, averaging 27.3 yards on his three touches. It was his fourth touchdown in 10 games with the Chiefs after being held out of the end zone in his 12-game Giants career.
“At the end of the day, I know what I can do with the ball in my hands,” he said. “Not a surprise.”