In an AFC West showdown rife with playmakers, it was a seventh-round rookie who made the biggest play on Thursday night.
Having trailed all game long, the Kansas City Chiefs were put ahead for good when cornerback Jaylen Watson jumped on a Justin Herbert pass and took it the other way for a 99-yard go-ahead touchdown in a 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football.
“The ball just ended up in my chest and I took it home,” Watson said after the game, in which he also had four tackles and a pass breakup. “It was a surreal feeling, just so grateful and blessed to be in this position, and I didn’t even know what to do when I got in the end zone, that’s why everyone seen me just standing there, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
Taken at No. 243 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft out of Washington State, Watson earned a start Thursday for the reigning AFC West champions and in the eighth quarter of his professional career provided one of the biggest highlights of the young season.
“It was an important, big play,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “Big play.”
Trailing 17-7 in the third quarter, the Chiefs rallied to tie it at 17 on a Matt Ammendola field goal. However, on the ensuing drive, Herbert and the Chargers were driving to retake the lead when Gerald Everett hauled in a 26-yard reception to the Kansas City 3-yard line. Noticeably gassed on the play, Everett wasn’t subbed out and Herbert went right back to him. Herbert’s pass was low and Watson jumped the route before bringing the Chiefs faithful to its feet 99 yards later.
Big of a highlight as it was for Watson, it was also historic. It is currently etched in the record books as the longest go-ahead fourth-quarter TD by a rookie in history, per NFL Research. It was also an indisputable game-changer, as the Chiefs’ win probability increased by 54.1 percentage points, per Next Gen Stats.
Watson played in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals, but Thursday’s prime-time showdown with the rival Chargers was the setting for his first NFL start.
“I’ve just been working my butt off and if the time came where someone went down I was going to be ready and prepared, and that’s what happened,” Watson said.
The time and the moment came for the 23-year-old and he shined. Still, it was a moment Watson said he predicted.
“I woke up knowing I was going to get a pick, honestly,” he said. “I just knew, being a seventh-rounder, having my first start, I was going to get tested a lot and early, and I just felt I was going to get one today, and that’s what happened.
“I was surprised. I still knew I was going to get one, but obviously I was surprised when it happened.”
More than 73,000 in attendance on Thursday were absolutely shocked when it happened. A Kansas City squad led by league luminaries such as Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones were deadlocked with the Chargers before an unknown rookie making his first start stepped in front of a Pro Bowler’s pass and stepped up for a go-ahead score.
“I don’t even remember what happened in the moment,” he said, “it was just all so surreal, I was just super thankful.”
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