On Sunday, the NFL world got to see something special during the Kansas City Chiefs’ narrow 20-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills: A remarkable play with an insane twist, that came late in a close game between two of the league’s perennial powerhouses. It could have been not only a game-winning play but one that may have altered the entire shape of the playoff race in the AFC.
On top of that, the play would have been played on repeat for weeks and remembered for decades. It was the kind of play Chiefs Kingdom would look back on as one of those special moments, like so many other magical moments from Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce.
But what we got instead was none of those things. What we got was Kadarius Toney’s Dee Ford moment.
With less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Kelce made a great 29-yard catch-and-run before dishing off a bonkers lateral across the field to Toney himself, who skipped untouched into the end zone for what should have been the go-ahead score.
It should have been, but it wasn’t. Ultimately, the play never happened. Cancelled out by a penalty, it is effectively wiped from the box score.
But players and Chiefs fans won’t forget. And if Kansas City’s season doesn’t end well, this will be a crucial moment that will be looked back on as a turning point, the one that got away, a moment to ponder what might have been.
Chiefs fans have seen this all before.
Sunday’s moment is strikingly similar to the now infamous play in the 2018 AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. That time, it was a defensive player who made the same mistake of lining up in the neutral zone, canceling out what should have been a game-winning play.
With the Chiefs up by four late in the contest, Chiefs corner Charvarius Ward picked off a wayward pass from Tom Brady, an interception that looked like it would send Kansas City to the Super Bowl. But Ford was offside, the pick was wiped away and the rest is history. It is a play that still haunts Chiefs Kingdom to this day.
Just like with Ford, what makes Toney’s mistake on Sunday so frustrating, so maddening, and so confounding is the simplicity of the error, the ease at which it could have been avoided altogether.
All Toney had to do was line up onside and stand three inches further back than he did. It’s one of the most basic things to do and it is entirely within the players’ control. But still, the mistake was made. It is not up for debate; Toney was clearly offside. Replays showed he was too far forward, plain as day.
Mahomes and Andy Reid both expressed their frustrations after the game, saying offensive offside is almost never called and that officials normally warn a coach before throwing a flag.
But to be honest, those are just excuses. Those comments sounded petty, like loser talk. Blaming referees is easy, but there needs to be more accountability than that, especially from a group as talented as the Chiefs with Super Bowl aspirations.
That play wasn’t the only mistake the Chiefs made against the Bills, far from it. But like the no-call for pass interference on Marquez Valdes-Scantling against Green Bay or Toney’s dropped pass-turned-interception against Detroit in Week 1, it will be the mistake that underlines the result.
Toney will forever be remembered in Chiefs Kingdom for his special punt return in Super Bowl LVII against Philadelphia. Now, he will also be remembered as the one responsible for taking away what should have been one of the coolest touchdowns the Chiefs have ever scored.
Ford’s time in Kansas City was effectively over after that, with Chiefs Kingdom never forgiving the mistake. Hopefully for Toney, someone who has already played a key role in a Kansas City championship and still has time to redeem himself, things play out differently.