KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs rookie punt returner De’Antony Thomas made special teams coordinator Dave Toub look good Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Toub just days earlier called the shot when it came to the special teams unit breaking a punt return for a touchdown.
“We’re still waiting to get a big one really is what we’re waiting on,” Toub said Thursday. “We just need to do a better job blocking the gunners and we take care of the gunners, I think we’re going to pop one.”
Thomas made Toub’s forecast a reality with an 81-yard punt return down the left sideline for a touchdown in the first quarter. The play helped build a lead the Chiefs wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 31-13 win to snap a three-game losing streak and move to 8-6 with two game remaining.
“Great blocking from them, the guys up front holding those gunners down,” Thomas said. “It’s just a great play to just get the tempo going for our offense.”
Thomas, of course, had plenty of help from his teammates after fielding Oakland punter Marquette King’s 57-yard punt at Kansas City’s 19-yard line.
Safety Kelcie McCray sealed the left edge by blocking Raiders defensive back Neiko Thorpe, and then fullback Anthony Sherman opened the lane with an inside block on Raiders tight end Scott Simonson.
Thomas worked his way to the left sideline with a wall of blockers and plenty of space to operate before scoring his first career punt return touchdown.
Linebacker Josh Martin kept Raiders fullback Jamize Olawale at bay, while wide receiver Junior Hemingway was Thomas’ sideline escort, throwing a block on King at Oakland’s 42-yard line.
“I was like, ‘Oh, here he goes,’” Hemingway said. “I had to make sure to lead him home to the end zone. For him to get in there now, that’s big. I felt he needed that; we needed that as a team. It was big.”
Producing a punt return for a touchdown proved gratifying, as Hemingway said the special teams unit was aware of Toub’s expectations.
Hemingway also hopes the play sends a message to the rest of the league.
“We all felt like it was time for one,” Hemingway said. “We finally got it. That puts it out there in the NFL that special teams, especially punt returner, we can make it happen. Everybody is going to be out looking out, so that puts the whole league on alert.”
Thomas totaled 156 yards on eight punt returns, which ranks as the second-highest single-game punt return total in team history behind Dexter McCluster’s 177 yards set on Dec. 8, 2013.
“We knew we had to have a great day on special teams today and I felt like we did,” Thomas said. “We can get a lot better, just going out there, I feel like we played hard.”