Typically cool, calm and collected, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Justin Watson stepped out of his element Sunday.
Seconds after securing a 3-yard touchdown catch from Patrick Mahomes, Watson stepped facemask-to-facemask with Raiders linebacker Robert Spillane, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and sparking a second-half comeback for Kansas City’s offense.
“Out of character a little bit for myself,” Watson admitted Thursday. “I was supposed to be on the total other side of the field. As soon as I got up, you just find the quarterback. I saw Pat [Mahomes] start moving to his right a little bit. So I just found the open spot and knew nobody was gonna be out there because of the rest of the route concept.”
Displaced but not disturbed by Spillane’s physicality on the play, Watson’s game-tying score helped settle the offense headed into halftime.
“That was a heck of a hit,” head coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. “Not a lot of guys bounce up from that the way he bounced up.”
Responding to early adversity on the route and in the game, Watson’s lone catch in Sunday’s 31-17 win was a big one.
“As I was scanning back to the left, I saw him getting back up, and I was like, ‘If you get back up, you’re going to be wide open for a touchdown,’” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of the scoring play. “It speaks to him, though, getting hit like that and being able to bounce back up and get the touchdown, you just have to keep fighting to the end,” Mahomes added.
Continuing the fight mentally, not physically, the message to Watson from Kansas City’s coaching staff and family members alike.
“I called my mom right after the game,” recalled Watson. “That was the first unsportsmanlike penalty I’ve had since the first year I played football in the fourth grade. We were playing on a baseball field. And I played running back. So I was getting tackled into the infield dirt. And we got stopped on fourth down and somebody was rough on the pile. And I turned and threw an elbow.
“I turned around, and it was my own teammate, so I actually got a penalty for throwing an elbow at my own teammate in fourth grade.”