After the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Houston Texans 34-20 during last Thursday night’s NFL season opener, it’s been noted far and wide that quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw only one deep ball in the game. Instead, the reigning Super Bowl MVP — just one season removed from his spectacular 5,000-yard, 50-touchdown season during his first year as a starter — was playing more like a game manager, taking the short throws the Texans would give him while their safeties played deep in coverage.
And that was fine with wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who ended up leading the team with 82 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.
“I do whatever [I’m] asked, man,” he told reporters during a Zoom call on Wednesday. “Honestly... if they want me to go crack a linebacker, I’ll go crack a linebacker. It’s special because in our offense, I’m the type of guy that can catch short balls and make 8-10 yards — or score a touchdown. To be up underneath — and guys this year might be playing us off deep — we can get that short passing game down and hit our big plays when we need to.”
Watkins said he believes the coaching staff has been working with Mahomes to continue his progression from a risk-taking, gunslinging rookie to a more careful veteran who can always keep the chains moving.
“I just think he’s growing up,” said Watkins. “Being that elite quarterback that’s saying. ‘Uh huh... let me just check it down and move to the next play.’ That’s a special guy we have on our team.”
But Watkins also said he believes Mahomes is still a player who will be able to recognize the right moment to let loose with that big play — and make it stick.
“He’s a guy that knows the game now,” said Watkins. “He knows the coverages and he knows where to go with the ball. If he sees something open, why not just throw it and get the ball off? You know Pat loves the big plays.”
In the meantime, Watkins will keep going to practice every day in order to hone his craft — so that he can be ready to make a play wherever his routes take him.
“I think our coaches just do so well with us at practice with snap counts — and the little details of blocking and hands inside,” he explained. “We’re just so detailed. It gets boring during practice, but when you go into a game, those little things click in your mind — like, ‘Hey I need to do this’ — and not worry about the big stuff and scoring touchdowns. I think if we just continue to do the little small things, we’ll continue to have success.”
Watkins said he isn’t worried about playing against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in So-Fi Stadium — where fans will not be allowed to attend — because of the way the Chiefs has been practicing.
“We practice so fast; [that’s] the way we are coached,” he said. “Yes, it’s hard to go out there with the fans not there — but at the same time, we all feed off each other. We create that energy. We’ve been together for three years. We just go out there to have fun and enjoy ourselves — not playing to do anything else but to get the win and have fun.”
As he answered reporters’ questions, Watkins kept mentioning how important it is for him (and his teammates) to have fun — which he said factored into his decision to restructure his contract so that he could return to the team in 2020.
“[It was] very special — not to just come back on the team, but a Super Bowl team,” he recalled. “A great staff — a great organization. A group of guys that I already know — and I’m kind of open to.”
For Watkins, that seems to have been an important part of his decision to return.
“I think that’s the number one thing on a team — or any organization or anybody that’s trying to win or be the best,“ he declared. “I think this team is young and we work well together. We love each other. We aren’t selfish — and I think that’s the biggest thing. Loving on each other, being real, helping each other out, kicking each other in the butts when we need to — but also wanting the best for each other.
“I’ve been on a lot of teams. This is one of the teams where I can say, ‘Man, we enjoy being with each other.’ If I can give my energy to everybody, man, I’m going to do it. That’s my job.”