The 24-year-old former first-round receiver symbolized the struggles of the K.C. receiving corps, dropping three passes, one of which went for a game-changing Lions touchdown, and caught one ball for one yard on five targets. Add in his lone carry for a loss of one yard, and Toney ended the excruciating night with more drops (three) than touches (two for 0 yards).
Despite the wideout's woeful performance, quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he still has faith in Toney, noting the receiver missed time in training camp that could have contributed to Thursday's issues.
"I have trust in KT. He missed a lot of training camp," Mahomes said, via the team's transcript. "Obviously, he wanted to play and fought in rehab hard so he could play. Stuff is not always going to go your way, obviously, he would have wanted to catch a few of those in the game, but I have trust that he is going to be the guy that I go to in those crucial moments and he's going to make the catch and win us some games like he did last year and get him more and more reps. I'm sure that those drops will disappear."
The game's biggest play came early in the second half when Mahomes tossed a pristine, on-target throw short to Toney on the move. The wideout appeared to have room to run after the catch. Instead, the pass sailed right through his hands, corralled by Lions rookie defensive back Brian Branch, who sprinted the other way for a pick-six. It was the type of pass that goes down as an interception on the QB but was zero percent the passer's fault.
Toney's poor outing epitomized a receiver corps that entered the season with a host of questions after the departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster (the team's leading wideout last year) and Mecole Hardman. The expectation was Toney and second-year receiver Skyy Moore would step into the void.
That didn't happen in Week 1.
Toney and Moore combined for one catch for one yard on eight targets.
As bad as Toney's night was, it was perhaps more surprising to see Moore put a goose egg (0 catches on three targets). The second-round pick was expected to play a critical role in Year 2, but was silenced Thursday.
"We didn't have that connection, we missed connections here and there," Mahomes said of Moore. "But (it's) something you have to continue to work on. Like I said, he is one of those guys who has a ton of talent that can make a lot of big plays happen, so we'll learn from it and try to be better next time."
In all, the Chiefs suffered five drops on the night, tied for the most in any game in Mahomes' career -- it's happened on two other instances, per NFL Research. Eleven Chiefs players caught a pass, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling leading the way with 48 receiving yards on two receptions. It marked the fewest receiving yards by a Chiefs game-leader in the Mahomes era.
All the Super Bowl MVP can do is keep slinging it -- unless he finds a way to be both passer and receiver.
"I think they know that I'm going to keep firing it and so we'll try to get it fixed this next week and correct it going into next game," the QB said of the drops.
Last season, following the Tyreek Hill trade, the Chiefs answered the WR questions by spreading the ball around and leaning on Travis Kelce. With the All-World tight end not available Thursday, the message was that the transition in 2023 might not be as easy as it looked last year.
"It's embarrassing for me to lose any time," Mahomes said. "Like I said, after the ring ceremony, I moved onto the next season. Obviously, it's cool for the fans to be able to see the banner and drop it at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium but this is a whole new year and I think I know that and we're trying to win another Super Bowl and this is obviously not the way we wanted to start and so anytime I lose I'm embarrassed. So, I'm going to try to get better so I don't lose more as the season goes on."
To avoid that, Mahomes will need more help from the young receiver corps even when Kelce returns.