Late in the second quarter of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 34-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, both special teams' units likely altered the eventual outcome. The Bengals — after trailing by two touchdowns much of the first half — kicked a field goal to bring the eventual halftime score to 28-17 in favor of Kansas City.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Chiefs appeared to take back the momentum as Byron Pringle returned the ball 89 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately, a holding call by rookie reserve safety Zayne Anderson negated Pringle’s heroics. Instead of a 35-17 halftime lead, the Chiefs offense took over at their own 16-yard line with only 30 seconds left until halftime.
Chiefs assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub discussed the missed opportunity in a Wednesday media appearance — and lamented the loss of what would have been his unit’s most spectacular play of the season.
“He had great effort,” Toub said of Pringle’s return. “He hit that thing so fast. We do that GPS deal where we check to see how fast he was — his top speed on that play was 21.43 miles per hour. I think it was like our second fastest play of the year, so I was happy the way he hit it. He came through there strong, and I just felt bad for him when it got called back. It’s a shame. It was such a great effort by a lot of players on the field.”
Toub acknowledged the penalty by Anderson — though the veteran coach believes it is inconsistently enforced.
“As far as the call,” he explained, “I see what the officials saw. You could see it from the end zone. Zayne was getting overpowered. He was actually holding onto the guy, and it appeared that he pulled the guy on top of him. I see what they saw; it was at the point of attack.
“I’ve also seen that call not be called. Either way, it went against us. It’s just a shame that it went against us because I really believe if we would’ve scored right there before the half, it would’ve kind of shut the door on them a little bit. It actually gave them life.”
Anderson signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent from BYU. He was waived at the end of camp and signed to the practice squad — though he was a gameday promotion for the season opener against the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs signed Anderson to the active roster on December 14 — implying an urgency to prevent him from signing with another team. He has played more than half of the special teams' snaps in each of the last two games.
While Anderson would certainly have preferred a different introduction to fans, Toub took the opportunity to commend his play. He also credited practice squad defensive backs Josh Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle, who have made appearances on his units in recent games due to injuries and players placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.
“Some of the young players have done a good job,” Toub claimed. “The guys that really come off the practice squad — Zayne Anderson has really done a good job for us, the Bootles of the world, Josh Jackson — I mean those guys that came off without a lot of practices and come to games and play at a high level for us. They deserve a lot of credit. Unsung heroes.”
As the special teams unit moves on from its highlight play of the year being called back, Toub has a goal for Saturday’s regular-season finale in Denver.
“We just have to get one this week,” said Toub, challenging his players. “That’s the way we look at it. We have a lot of football still in front of us — and there’s more plays out there for us.”