KANSAS CITY – Hood over his head, speaking quietly, Sammy Watkins was cautious yet decisive with his words at the podium. He had every right to be furious. His disappearing act made no sense at all to outsiders. After a dynamite first half in which he blistered the Chiefs for 158 yards on six receptions with two touchdowns, he was targeted once in the entire second half.
Part of the reason, Watkins said, was that the Chiefs started playing more Cover 2. There was a safety over the top on him more often.
Of course, he was making acrobatic catches. Circus stuff. The highlight-reel plays that render any coverage, any scheme, any plan by a defensive coordinator utterly useless.
“We just need to have more of a sense of urgency on the field,” Watkins said. “We have to finish games.”
And that was as far as Watkins would mostly go.
Kansas City adjusted at halftime by giving the Bills different looks, he said, and “those guys get paid, too.” He understands Tyrod Taylor didn’t want to force the issue and throw an interception. But an offense so rhythmic, so unstoppable in the first half suddenly resembled the Bills offenses of old. The days of Trent and JP, of punts and more punts.
So, yeah, a more aggressive approach would’ve helped.
“I think if we would have had more of a sense of urgency,” Watkins said, “and came out more alive we could’ve gotten the win.”
For one half, Watkins looked like a Hall of Famer.
He roasted Sean Smith for 48 yards on the first drive of the game. He beat Smith on an inside release, regained the sideline and hauled in a 28-yard touchdown from Taylor before safety Eric Berry could arrive on the scene. He caught a ridiculous 33-yarder in double coverage on third and 6, shoving away veteran Ron Parker in one fluid, intimidating, get-the-hell-out-of-my-way motion.
An official stepped in. Watkins was only heating up. Three plays later, he plucked the ball over Smith’s head for a 21-yard touchdown, chucked the ball behind him and trotted to the sideline.
Forget one first-round pick – this looked like someone worth mortgaging three first-rounders.
Then ... nothing.
“I felt like the coverages were still the same as they were,” receiver Robert Woods said. “Maybe they played him different. On my side, it was the same coverages as earlier.”
Watkins kept it big picture, citing the lack of a killer instinct in the second half. He admitted there might need to be more communication between the players and the coaches to get this right.
“Have to be aggressive for the whole game,” Watkins said, “and that’s something we as players we have to talk to the coach about: being aggressive. And I think for the most part, he was aggressive. But we have to put the nail in the coffin when we’re dealing with great teams like this. Because if you give them a chance and let them live, they started making plays, the defense started playing good. We have to put guys away.”
The second half consisted of one three and out, one touchdown drive kept alive by a Chiefs penalty when Buffalo was punting, one drive that stalled at the Chiefs’ 42-yard line and the final drive that ended with one first down and a turnover on downs.
All in all, pretty uninspiring. Taylor said the Chiefs “definitely” changed their coverages.
“The time of possession definitely changed,” Taylor said. “We only had the ball 11 minutes. So we didn’t have a bunch of opportunities to take those shots unlike the first half. It was something we had to work for, take shots when we could and get the ball into some of the guys’ hands.”
So now, time is running out.
Watkins believes the team has the leaders to finish strong and make a playoff push at 5-6. To rally. Afterward, players spoke to each other about staying positive, focused.
Anything can still happen, he continued. It’s the NFL.
But after coach Rex Ryan said during the week that getting the ball to Watkins must be a priority, the Bills only did so for a half. Oh, that one half was poetry in motion for this Bills offense, as good as its looked in years. Watkins said they got the looks they wanted and that Taylor threw the ball “freely,” something that must continue the rest of the season.
As for that killer instinct ...
The players’ themselves? The play calling? The willingness to take shots?
Whatever Watkins was referring to, that still needs work.
“We just have to harp on it during the week,” Watkins said. “Preparation. If it’s more meetings, do that. It’s all within the team and the players. It’s not on the coaches, it’s on us. We just need to come together even closer every week and just grind.”
When he was finished, Watkins walked out to the hallway and shook hands with Jeremy Maclin. The Chiefs’ top receiver had the final word Sunday, ripping a secondary himself for 160 yards. They spoke briefly and went their separate ways.
One team inched closer to the playoffs, one inched closer to a 16th playoff-less season.