Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins leads receivers in win against Broncos
Sammy Watkins held the football over the orange pylon as he danced out of bounds.
In one fluid motion, he curled around the back of the end zone, spreading his arms out wide to morph into a human airplane.
He zoomed around while his teammates joined him to celebrate his second touchdown of KC’s 30-23 win against the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.
Starship 14 was taking off, and so were the Chiefs.
On a day where the Chiefs used a surge in the second and third quarters to put away Denver, Watkins’ emergence jump-started Kansas City to its seventh consecutive win against the Broncos.
“It’s always good to see Sammy go off,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “He brings such a confidence and electricity … and everything he does, you’re happy for the guy just because of the type of person he is and how he works during the week.
“It’s awesome to see him have a day like he had today.”
Before the Chiefs took the field Sunday, Mahomes sought out the receiver to give him a message.
“You owe these guys,” Mahomes told him.
The last time the two AFC West teams faced off, Watkins exited the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and never returned. It was the only game this season he didn’t record a catch.
“They didn’t really know what kind of ability he brought to the offense,” Mahomes said. “I was happy for him to get out there and make a lot of really big plays that really changed the tide of the game.”
Watkins, the Chiefs’ fourth offensive weapon behind Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and running back Kareem Hunt, led the Chiefs with eight receptions for 107 yards, but it took him and quarterback Patrick Mahomes a couple of tries to get going.
In the first quarter, Mahomes targeted Watkins three times in a row before the two finally connected on the third attempt for a nine-yard gain.
The connection between the two strengthened even more in the second quarter, when Mahomes hit Watkins for a 24-yard completion.
Watkins beat linebacker Todd Davis five plays later for a 13-yard touchdown reception over the middle.
Once he crossed the goal line, Watkins jumped forward and high-stepped to the back of the end zone before throwing the ball down on the ground and thumping his chest.
It was his first successful red zone trip since scoring his first touchdown as a Chiefs against the 49ers in Week 3.
But he wasn’t done there.
On the Chiefs’ first drive of the third quarter, Watkins picked up 24 yards on a catch-and-run before scoring his second touchdown of the day a couple plays later.
This time, Mahomes hit him as he cut across the field toward the Broncos’ sideline. Watkins sprinted to the corner of the end zone for the 10-yard touchdown reception.
That score gave Watkins his first multi-touchdown game since he scored two against the 49ers on Sept. 21, 2017.
There was a time when Watkins would’ve been dissatisfied with his gap in production. In Buffalo, he was notorious for demanding more targets. But in Kansas City, he’s embraced his role as one head of an offensive hydra.
“I was young and I was kind of ego tripping and now I’m older and I understand it’s a team goal,” Watkins said. “Every week, it’s going to change. Next week, Tyreek might have 180 yards. Or Kelce might have 180 yards. I might have 30. It’s going to switch up with all these star athletes running around. I know I’m not going to get 50 targets. That’s not realistic.”
Coach Andy Reid has noticed Watkins’ maturity and change in mentality since the receiver joined the team in the offseason.
“His approach has been unbelievable,” Reid said. “He just comes out, works hard, he’s never concerned about how many catches he has. For a big-time receiver, that’s unique.
“I mentioned it to the guys: there’s only one ball and we’ve got a bunch of pretty good players. Just when you have an opportunity to be a part of that. And he’s done that. He’s done a nice job of that.”
It was a breakout game for Watkins, but the rest of the Chiefs’ offensive mainstays also put together solid outings.
Mahomes threw four touchdown passes, joining Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to throw at least 26 touchdowns passes in the first eight games of a season. He also had his seventh consecutive game of 300 yards as he completed 24 of 34 attempts for 303 yards.
For the second week in a row, Hunt hurdled a defender en route to an impressive run. He finished with 50 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Meanwhile, Hill had three catches for 70 yards, but he exited early with a groin injury.
And Kelce was key in converting long downs. Mahomes found Kelce for an 18-yard pass on the first drive of the third quarter, setting up Watkins’ second touchdown. Kelce finished with six receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown, his first since the first meeting with the Broncos in Week 4.
The hot hand in this Chiefs offense rotates by the week. This week, it was Watkins’ turn. And if — or rather when — the offensive focus shifts to a new guy next week, Watkins will be OK with that, too.
“That’s how special this offense is,” Watkins said. “With so many guys, we get different matchups on safeties, linebackers, and coach kind of just throw us in different places, different weeks. And everybody get the opportunity to go out there and display our talents.”