In a game dominated by lesser-known players — and in some cases players making their debuts as players for the Kansas City Chiefs — one familiar face put on a show.
Wide receiver Byron Pringle was a huge factor in the Chiefs putting up 21 points in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He scored the game’s opening touchdown, saved a deflected pass in the red zone to set up the second and made an effort of breaking four tackles on a big play that directly led to the third score.
He finished the game with four catches on six targets — converting those into 52 yards and the score. He had the longest reception of the day from a wide receiver, while also tacking on an impressive 31-yard kickoff return.
In his post-game press conference, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid made a point to praise Pringle — who has only been back three weeks since an ankle injury that held him out of three games.
“He has really done a nice job all the way through,” Reid said of Pringle. “He was banged up there for a little bit, but ever since he’s been back, he’s really given us good snaps. Today was no different. He’s so physical when he catches and runs — he has a real knack for that, you see it in his returns too.”
We all see it. Pringle feels like a regular contributor because of how big of an impact he makes on each opportunity he gets — even though he sees so few of them. He finished the regular season with only 17 targets and 10 kickoff return opportunities.
In the 11 targets and seven kick returns he saw before Week 17, he made impactful plays:
- His first catch of the season was a 23-yard reception in Week 5 against the Las Vegas Raiders to set the Chiefs up at the Raiders' 3-yard line with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
- His next two catches came against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6 — one of them being a 37-yard reception on third-and-12 that helped extend the game-sealing drive. He showed off his intelligence in the scramble drill during one of the game’s most crucial moments.
- In Week 7, he returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos — the Chiefs’ only kick return score of the season.
- His fifth catch of the season came on a fake punt against the New York Jets. The 13-yard catch on the Chiefs’ second offensive possession while only leading 7-3 catapulted the team to a blowout victory.
All that doesn’t even factor into the impact he made in 2019 — including a performance (against the Colts in Week 5) of six receptions, 103 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown catch when injuries forced him to play the biggest role of his career.
So that begs an obvious question: why doesn’t Pringle see the ball more?
The likely answer is the impressive depth of the Chiefs’ receiving corps.
Even if coaches are recognizing and respecting Pringle’s impact, it’s hard to get away from feeding the incredibly-talented players ahead of him. Staying patient and ready to make a play at any time — especially when they’re so few and far between — seems like a challenge, but Pringle claims he’s conquered it.
“It’s not difficult,” Pringle answered when asked about being prepared at any moment. “You know you’re a professional, you know you come to work every day, and you never know when your time is going to be called. You got to stay ready, stay mentally ready — and know your assignment when you’re given the opportunity to be out there.”
The noticeable trait of Pringle’s is his physicality when running after the catch. He’s rarely tackled easily — and he usually breaks a few before finally coming down.
“In open space, I like me versus a lot of dudes one-on-one, tackling,” Pringle proclaimed. “I just run with a lot of anger and aggression, because I don’t know when I’m going to get the ball again. I just take full advantage of my opportunity.”
That’s exactly what Pringle has done his entire career: taken advantage of his opportunities. Yet, he did not see any chances in the three postseason games he played with the team last season.
Will Pringle’s latest case for more playing time finally earn him more usage — even when the offense is at full-strength and playing in its most important games?