GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kadarius Toney's struggles with injuries and inconsistency prompted the New York Giants to give up on him midway through his second NFL season.
The Kansas City Chiefs gave him a second chance and the talented receiver proved he's no first-round bust.
A small part of Kansas City's offensive game plan, Toney made history and two of the biggest plays in the Chiefs' 38-35 Super Bowl win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
“It is the biggest game of my life,” Toney said. “It was, for real.”
Hobbled by a sprained ankle that knocked him out of the AFC championship game, Toney took advantage of the two-week break before the Super Bowl. He received treatment the first week, returned to practice Monday in the desert and made the most of his limited touches in the Super Bowl.
Toney wasn't a big part of Kansas City's offense through the first three quarters as the teams traded touchdowns and big plays. In fact, he played no part, at least beyond blocking and running safeties off other routes.
Patrick Mahomes, himself hobbled by a sprained ankle, did not target Toney once, opting to go in the direction of Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster and his running backs.
Once Mahomes did look his way, Toney made a massive impact, catching a 5-yard touchdown after the Eagles left him wide open that gave the Chiefs a 28-27 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“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.”
On Toney's next touch — also his last — he ran all the way into the record book.
Kansas City's defense held, forcing the Eagles to punt. Toney caught Arryn Siposs' line-drive punt at the Chiefs' 30-yard, started to the left, then juked his way out of a tackle before reversing course. Picking up a wall of blockers, Toney raced down the right sideline before the Chiefs finally closed in on him at Philadelphia's 5-yard line.
The 65-yard punt return, longest in Super Bowl history, set up Mahomes' 4-yard TD pass to Skyy Moore that gave Kansas City a 35-28 lead.
“I saw a lot of white jerseys in front of me," Toney said. "At that moment, I was really excited to get the ball.”
Toney had been waiting for this moment since the Giants used the 20th overall pick to draft him out of Florida in 2021.
The 6-foot, 193-pound receiver had a breakout season with the Gators as a senior, finishing with 70 catches for 984 yards and a touchdowns. Once with New York, Toney suffered through multiple injuries. He played in 12 of 24 games for the Giants, totaling 41 catches for 420 yards.
Toney was traded to Kansas City on Oct. 27 for third- and sixth-round draft picks. He caught two touchdown passes for the Chiefs, but again struggled to stay healthy. Toney was limited to one catch for 9 yards before hurting his ankle against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC title game.
He recovered in time to make two of the biggest plays in the biggest game of his life.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL