February 22, 2024

For the first time, the Super Bowl had no kickoff returns

Super Bowl LVIII was emblematic of a 2023 NFL season in which kickoff returns were largely phased out of the game.

Not a single kickoff was returned between the Chiefs and the 49ers, making it the first Super Bowl without any kickoff returns.

It’s not that there weren’t opportunities: There were a total of 13 kickoffs in the game. But all 13 of the went for touchbacks.

NFL rules have increasingly incentivized touchbacks, as the league has changed rules to minimize the number of full-speed collisions players have on kickoff returns. A Super Bowl with 13 kickoffs and zero kickoff returns is the natural consequence of NFL rule changes in recent years.

But that might be changing: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that the league needs to find a way to keep the kickoff in the game, rather than turn it into an irrelevant play that eventually gets eliminated. The league is exploring rules that would bring kickoff returns back, without increasing injuries, such as the XFL-style low-impact kickoff.

So this was the first Super Bowl without a kickoff return, and it might also be the last.