A long punt return is hardly a common occurrence in the NFL.
In fact, the league average punt return hasn’t reached 10 yards since 2000.
And while the record for the longest regular-season punt return has stood for nearly 30 years, the previous one for the Super Bowl was shattered in 2022.
We recently looked back at football’s longest punts – led by Steve O’Neal’s 98-yarder – but now let’s pivot to the longest punt returns in NFL history.
Longest Punt Returns in NFL History
1. 103 yards – Robert Bailey, Los Angeles Rams (1994)
Bailey’s return is the longest in NFL history, recorded during a 1994 special teams clinic put on by the Rams and the New Orleans Saints. In the Week 8 matchup, both teams ran up the score with a 98-yard fumble return and both 92-yard and 98-yard kickoff returns – all before the end of the third quarter.
With the Rams down 37-27 near the end of the fourth, the Saints punted the ball to the end zone. And while the punter and rest of the Saints special teams unit walked off to the sidelines – thinking the play was over – Bailey snagged the ball and ran 103 yards for a touchdown. Though his smart play brought the team within three, the Rams’ momentum ground to a halt, and they lost the game.
T-2. 99 yards – Dwayne Harris, Oakland Raiders (2018)
In one of his two seasons with the Raiders, Harris made NFL history with a 99-yard punt return. In a Raiders’ 27-14 win over the Denver Broncos, the wide receiver grabbed the ball at the 1-yard line and ran for a touchdown just minutes into the first quarter.
T-2. 99 yards – Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals (2011)
Peterson, who spent the first decade of his career with the Cardinals, put his name in the record books with a 99-yarder in 2011. In Week 9, the Cardinals faced the St. Louis Rams, and after a Larry Fitzgerald touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter, the score was tied 13-13. And in overtime, Peterson evaded four tackles in the game-winning punt return.
T-4. 98 yards – Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams (2013)
During his rookie season, Austin showcased his speed with a 98-yard return for the Rams. Early in the second quarter of a matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, Austin returned a punt kicked by Greg Zuerlein and helped the Rams extend the score to 28-0.
And just a few minutes later, he continued to amaze when he caught a 57-yard touchdown catch – and then followed up with an 81-yard TD pass in the third quarter. And after four interceptions thrown by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the Rams went on to win 38-8.
T-4. 98 yards – Damaris Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles (2012)
Though he only played four seasons in the NFL, Johnson made history with his punt-return touchdown in 2012. But since the Dallas Cowboys were leading 38-27, the run was futile, and time soon ran out.
- T-4. 98 yards – Terance Mathis, New York Jets (1990)
- T-4. 98 yards – Charlie West, Minnesota Vikings (1968)
- T-8. 97 yards – Jakeem Grant Sr., Miami Dolphins-Chicago Bears (2021)
- T-8. 97 yards – Bryan McCann, Dallas Cowboys (2010)
- T-8. 97 yards – Greg Pruitt, Los Angeles Raiders (1983)
- 11. 96 yards – Bill Dudley, Washington (1950)
Longest Punt Returns in Super Bowl History
1. 65 yards – Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs (2022)
Just minutes after he caught a touchdown pass, Toney set the NFL record for the longest punt return in Super Bowl history. With the Chiefs narrowly up 28-27 over the Philadelphia Eagles, the latter was forced to punt. And Toney, a former college football quarterback and the 20th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, caught it at the Kansas City 30-yard line and ran until he was taken down at the 5.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for a touchdown on that drive, bringing the team’s lead to 35-27. Though the Eagles evened the score a few plays later, the Chiefs won their third Super Bowl with a field goal as time expired.
2. 61 yards – Jordan Norwood, Denver Broncos (2016)
Norwood is the only other player to have a return over 50 yards in the Super Bowl, with his 61-yarder breaking nearly a 30-year record. As he was catching the ball, at the Denver 27-yard line, six guys from the Carolina Panthers surrounded him. But the wide receiver evaded tackles until he was brought down at the 14.
His long run opened the door for a second-quarter field goal that brought the score to 13-7. And Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos went on to win the franchise’s third Super Bowl in franchise history.
3. 45 yards – John Taylor, San Francisco 49ers (1989)
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