With 100-yard game, Sammy Watkins is starting to catch on to Andy Reid’s system

Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins has 100-yard receiving day against Steelers

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins earned 100-yards in offense on the day as the teams won 42-37 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's September 16, 2018 game at Heinz Field.
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Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins earned 100-yards in offense on the day as the teams won 42-37 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's September 16, 2018 game at Heinz Field.

Sammy Watkins ran from right to left, darting behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes in time to grab the handoff on a jet sweep.

He turned the corner, splitting a pair of Pittsburgh defenders and darted up the field.

The Steelers dived at Watkins, grasping at his feet. Another tried to grab him from the side, but Watkins extended his arm and shoved him out of the way. Finally, Vince Williams wrapped Watkins up, but the wide receiver still fought for a few extra yards, dipping his shoulder and pushing forward until he was finally brought down seven yards from the goal line.

Watkins, of course, is a receiver by trade, but that 31-yard run in the first quarter of the Chiefs’ 42-37 win at Pittsburgh ultimately settled him down and helped him churn out his best performance since coming to Kansas City.

“Kind of felt like a running back,” he said Sunday. “It felt good. It got me going early on. Got tackled and after that, it was kind of like, ‘OK, I’m here.’ Got all the butterflies out.”

Prior to that long run, Watkins had three catches for 67 yards. By the end of the game, he had seven catches for 100 yards, averaging 16.7 yards per catch.

Though he wasn’t on the receiving end of one of Mahomes’ six touchdown throws, Watkins’ involvement in the offense was somewhat of a welcome relief after a quiet preseason and season-opener. As a new addition to the Chiefs in the offseason, Watkins has immersed himself in the complexities Andy Reid’s playbook. The payoff has been a slow build. But Sunday in Pittsburgh was a sign of positive progress.

Not only did Watkins catch six of seven targets, the lone incompletion coming as Mahomes overthrew him in the end zone early in the third quarter, but he also showed his strength as he broke tackles and ran through contact. Through two weeks, Watkins has 54 yards after catch, averaging six per reception.

“I think Sammy Watkins showed everybody some stuff and opened some eyes today to show that he is the real deal,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “He’s going to be one heck of a weapon for us this year.”

A week earlier against the Chargers, Watkins had three catches on five targets for just 21 yards — a far cry from his earlier days in Buffalo when he infamously demanded to have 10 targets a game.

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But Watkins is in a new system now and his mentality has evolved. He’s playing with an array of offensive threats, and he’s OK being selfless.

“I’m not going to have 100 yards every game,” Watkins said. “That’s not realistic. But to be out there playing hard, playing physical, blocking. I think that’s what it’s about. It’s not about who got the stats and stuff like that. If I’m playing hard, playing fast and we’re getting wins, that’s what it’s about.”

Everyone got involved in the offense in Sunday’s win, reflecting what Reid and his players preached throughout training camp and the preseason. It also looked entirely different from what Reid schemed up for Week 1, where most everything flowed through speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

This time, the emphasis seemed to shift to tight end Travis Kelce and Watkins from the very beginning.

Kelce was targeted once on the first drive and caught the touchdown the second. Watkins had back-to-back catches in the second drive, including one that went for 40 yards.

“I’m happy for Sammy,” Reid said. “Sammy has gone through a few things through his career, and he comes here as one of the big names, he saw what he is. You get that ball in his hand, and he’s an explosive runner. It’s like you have a running back when he has that ball, big, strong and physical. So, I need to do a better job of making sure we get it to him. Travis Kelce, too, he had a nice game today. A lot of positives.”

Even with a solid performance, Watkins knows he still has more learning to do. He’s catching on to Reid’s schemes, but he’s not there yet.

“There’s no rush,” Watkins said. “It’s the second game. The coaches are just going to continue to put me in the right positions. I’m going to continue to grow with this offense and today just shows how well we can play together if we continue to work together.”

Brooke Pryor

Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.