GLENDALE, Ariz. —
Kadarius Toney did not require a large window of time to etch a place for himself in Super Bowl lore.
The Kansas City Chiefs receiver made two huge plays in a short span of the fourth quarter on Sunday to help the Chiefs defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium.
Toney caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes with just more than 12 minutes left to pull his team ahead 28-27. Less than three minutes later, he returned a punt 65 yards to the five-yard line to set up another touchdown that galvanized the Chiefs on their way to their second Super Bowl title in four years.
“It’s the biggest game of my life,” Toney said when asked about the plays. “It was surreal, but it’s all about finishing the job.”
Toney’s heroics, and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s performance in the fourth quarter, once again showed that the Chiefs could win despite the departure of star receiver Tyreek Hill, who was traded to the Miami Dolphins during the offseason.
Last spring, the Chiefs signed Smith-Schuster — a former Long Beach Poly High and USC star — and Marquez Valdes-Scantling but they still desired more speed.
So they traded for Toney in late October.
Toney, 24, was the 20th pick by the New York Giants in the 2021 draft, but injuries and other issues characterized his short stay in New York.
As a rookie, he caught 39 passes for 420 yards and no touchdowns in 10 games. The Chiefs gave up for a 2023 third-round compensatory pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick to give them another speedy option, and he caught 14 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.
On Sunday, he did not have a target until Mahomes found him wide open on the right side for a touchdown.
After the Eagles went three and out, Toney caught a punt, started to his left, and then broke to his right. He ran down the sideline in front of the Eagles’ bench to the five, setting up Skyy Moore’s short touchdown catch to put the Chiefs ahead 35-27 with 9:22 left.
Toney said special teams coordinator Dave Toub had been “drilling in our head all week, ‘Nobody ever did anything punt return-wise or whatever in the Super Bowl.’”
So he took upon himself to change that.
“I just tried to show ‘em,” Toney said, “I ain’t played in it yet.”
Smith-Schuster had only two catches through the first three quarters, but Mahomes started the fourth quarter with a 14-yard pass to him and then found him twice more to set up the touchdown pass to Toney.
Smith-Schuster also caught two passes during the game-winning drive.
“It’s just the opportunity, when it presents itself, you take full advantage,” said Smith-Schuster, who caught seven passes for 53 yards.
“I’m not the type of guy who cares about stats, catches, who gets the ball, whatnot.
“All I care about is winning, and when you win everyone’s so happy. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to make the plays I can for my team and to put us in position to win this game.”
Harrison Butker did it again.
The Chiefs’ kicker beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC championship game with a field goal as time expired.
On Sunday, after missing a 42-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, Butker came back and kicked a 27-yard field goal with eight seconds left to give the Chiefs a 38-35 lead.
Butker said he did not grow up dreaming of making game-winning kicks because he was not a kicker at the time. But he said he was well aware of former kicker Adam Vinatieri, who won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and another with the Indianapolis Colts.
“It’s hard not to notice a kicker like Adam Vinatieri,” he said. “Even if you’re not a football fan, you still see him kicking in the Super Bowl and doing a great job.
“I saw him make some big kicks. And as a kicker, that’s kind of how you get noticed — those big kicks, those big moments. And it’s just very surreal to be sitting here right now having won a second Super Bowl in six seasons and for it to have come down to a field goal.”
Butker said he did not get down after his first field-goal attempt bounced off the left upright.
“You’ve got to go to the next kick and focus on what you can control,” he said. “Obviously, I would have loved for that kick to go through, but it didn’t. But you can’t keep thinking about it. You’ve got to go to the next play and move on.”
On the run
Chiefs rookie running back Isiah Pacheco rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown in 15 carries.
It was a fitting finish for Pacheco, a seventh-round draft pick from Rutgers who saw 21 running backs selected before him.
“It means the absolute world to me,” he said of becoming a Super Bowl champion. “Especially when you write down in your notes what your goals are, and then you come back to them.
“I’m going to go back to them and grab that pen and check ‘em off…. I’m satisfied on the win, on my first one but I’m unsatisfied because I know there’s more that could have been left out there.”
Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton made a momentum-turning play when he returned a Jalen Hurts fumble 36 yards for a touchdown with 9:39 left in the first half.
It was the second time in Bolton’s short career that he returned a fumble for a touchdown.
“I was really praying for a good bounce and I got one,” Bolton said.
“It popped up right in my hands and I was able to grab it and go.
“It was a pretty bounce.”
And for a few moments in the third quarter, it looked like returned another fumble for a touchdown.
Bolton appeared to make Super Bowl history after Eagles running back Miles Sanders appeared to catch a pass, and then had the ball knocked loose by cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Bolton scooped the ball and ran 24 yards to the end zone for an apparent go-ahead touchdown.
But upon review, officials ruled that Sanders never had control of the ball for a catch.
Players on both teams had a tough time finding their footing, especially in areas that were painted.
“If you look at the film everybody’s slipping, both sides,” Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick said. “I’m not going to use it as an excuse or complain about it. It was evident if you see the tape.”
Reddick said it was disappointing.
“A couple times, I had a good pass rush, felt like I beat my man,” he said. “Tried to turn the corner and couldn’t turn the corner. But I’m not making excuses, at the end of the day, they still won.”
Said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni: “It’s not like we were playing on ice and they were playing on grass. We all had to play on it. We all had to figure out our shoes.”
Feeling the feeling
Even before the opening kickoff, this game produced a memorable image: Sirianni standing stoically with tears streaming down his cheeks during the national anthem.
In advance of Sunday, Sirianni, who grew up near Buffalo, N.Y., recalled how — as a 9-year-old — he was moved by Whitney Houston’s rendition of the song before the Bills played the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV.
He anticipated the experience Sunday being an emotional one.
“It makes you think about all the hard work you had to go through to get to that moment,” Sirianni said. “It will be a good feeling. I’m not going to let myself get wrapped up in that feeling because right after that we’re going to have a job to do. But I will let myself enjoy that moment for a second and enjoy that feeling.”
The Super Bowl might have been the last games with the Eagles for offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
Steichen reportedly will be hired as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The Arizona Cardinals are scheduled to interview Gannon for their vacant head coaching position, according to reports.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin attended the game, and he and his caregivers were introduced to the crowd.
On Jan. 2, Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field during a game against the Bengals.
Hamlin galvanized the NFL community with a remarkable recovery.