Sammy Watkins made a decisive impact in Super Bowl LIV, with a performance that should convince the Kansas City Chiefs he is worth signing to a new contract. Watkins’ statistics from the Chiefs’ dramatic 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers do not reflect the influence he had on Kansas City’s first Super Bowl win in 50 years. What does help tell the story of his mark on the most significant Chiefs game for half a century is his Pro Football Network Offensive Share Metric (OSM) grade.
OSM measures a player’s contribution to his offense’s production by using the NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to look at the factors only he could control.
For his five-catch, 98-yard performance in Miami, Watkins received a grade of 45.18, which was the highest of any qualifying player in the game and indicated an elite level of performance.
Watkins earned such a high mark by making arguably the most critical play of the Super Bowl, while also coming up with clutch catches that helped Patrick Mahomes keep the chains moving amid intense pressure from the San Francisco defense. He did so despite being given very little room to work with. Per NextGen Stats, Watkins averaged the second-highest amount of separation (4.5 yards) while being afforded the lowest amount of average cushion (4.0 yards) of any receiver in the game.
His first significant contribution of the contest came on a play the 49ers used in their blowout Week 2 win over the Cincinnati Bengals with Marquise Goodwin. The success of the design meant Watkins was able to leak out over the middle uncovered. However, with Mahomes producing a poorly thrown ball under heavy pressure, he had to adjust to its flight to make a 28-yard catch.
Mahomes frequently had to make plays out of the structure; such was the extent of the pressure applied by the 49ers’ pass rush. Thankfully for Kansas City, this is an area in which he excels, though he would not have been quite as successful in doing so if not for the awareness of his receivers.
Watkins helped Mahomes take the Chiefs out of the shadow of their endzone on this first-down play in the third quarter. Mahomes is forced to scramble to his right, but Watkins’ ability to disengage from the coverage of Richard Sherman and stay alive in the play allowed the 2018 MVP to hit him for a 19-yard gain.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Watkins’ Super Bowl performance was that he enjoyed consistent success against Sherman, an All-Pro, and the 49ers’ best cornerback.
Watkins beat Sherman for his most critical play of the game, a 38-yard connection that put the Chiefs in position to take a 24-20 lead they would not surrender. It was over from the second Watkins got Sherman to bite on a jab step to the right, which gave him the inside leverage and separation required to get Kansas City firmly in scoring range.
Damien Williams finished off the drive and, with the 49ers unable to rally after being dealt a body blow in a true heavyweight fight, delivering a Super Bowl title could be Watkins’ last act in Kansas City.
The Chiefs, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, are hopeful about finding a way of keeping Watkins – set to earn $14 million in the final year of his contract in 2020, per Spotrac, in Kansas City.
He has made noise about a potential year away from the game, telling SiriusXM NFL Radio of his need for “downtime” in the wake of the Super Bowl run. Such wishes must be respected given the toll long seasons take on players’ bodies but, the Chiefs would still be well advised to push to retain Watkins’ services.
Watkins may not be integral to the Chiefs offense like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are, but, in the postseason, he delivered for a franchise starved of success. Indeed, his crucial Super Bowl contribution followed a stellar AFC Championship game display, which saw him make seven catches for 114 yards and ice the game with a fourth-quarter touchdown.
The former Buffalo Bill and Los Angeles Ram will only be 27 when the 2020 season starts, and there is reason to believe the best is yet to come from Watkins. His skill set is ideally suited to Andy Reid’s offense, and, after the glimpses of dominance he displayed during the Chiefs’ run to the title, it is tough to envisage a better spot for a player who has struggled to find a long-term home in the NFL.
Watkins’ Super Bowl performance showed just how valuable he could be to the Chiefs. There is already talk of a dynasty being built in Kansas City. Following his pivotal impact in ending the Lombardi trophy drought, Watkins deserves to be part of the foundation.