Six sad weeks. That’s how Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins described his time sidelined by a foot injury and unable to give the their third bonafide matchup nightmare to go along with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Watkins made it back in time to help the Chiefs score 31 points, snap a playoff losing streak at home that dated back to 1994 and secure the first AFC Championship Game hosted at Arrowhead Stadium in franchise history.
The Chiefs had gone without Watkins in their lineup since his brief appearance in the Monday Night Football shootout with the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 19. Despite missing the better part of two games with injuries (Denver and the Rams), Watkins registered 40 catches, 519 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns through 10 games this season.
“It was sad, sitting at home, working out, going to training room and just watching those guys play,” Watkins said of the time he missed. “But they got the wins without me, and that’s what you need as a good team.”
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Watkins described himself as “thankful” to get back on the field and for the work the training staff did to get him physically ready and the coaching staff did to mentally prepare him this week. He said he felt “a little slow” to start, but got more comfortable once he started blocking and offense started making plays.
Watkins caught six passes for 62 yards, including the longest reception of the night — a 34-yard catch-and-run on the Chiefs’ first possession to set up a Damien Williams touchdown run.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “You see it every single week. He runs so hard. He’s stiff-arming guys. He’s getting those extra yards. He just adds another dimension to our offense. So for him to be back out there as someone I can trust and rely on, it’s always good to have him there.”
Watkins did fumble after a catch late in the third quarter, but it did not come back to bite the Chiefs. The defense responded by forcing a turnover on a strip-sack by Dee Ford and recovery by Justin Houston to get the ball back two plays later.
“I was proud of him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Watkins. “He was full throttle there. I think half of the fumble — because he not a fumbler at all — I just think the fumble was because he was tired. This will be good for him. He’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but that’ll pay off for him by Sunday. I am proud of him though, for getting in there and rolling like he did.”
The Chiefs racked up 433 yards of total offense and didn’t even throw a passing touchdown in their first playoff win at Arrowhead Stadium in two decades.
“We got the win, 31-13, and we didn’t even play our best ball,” Watkins said. “That’s the good part about it. We’ve got to watch film, learn from it and get ready for the next round.”