"I kind of said, 'You owe [the Broncos],'" Mahomes said. "He was hurt in the last game [against Denver] at the very beginning so they didn't really know what kind of ability he brought to the offense. I was happy for him, to get out there and made a lot of big plays that really turned the tide of the game."
Watkins was indeed held without a catch in Week 4 when the Chiefs also played against the Broncos. He played just 12 snaps in that game because of a sore hamstring.
Watkins made up for that on Sunday when he had his best game as a member of the Chiefs. Watkins set season highs in catches (eight), yards (107) and touchdowns (two) in the Chiefs' 30-23 win.
Watkins tied his career high for TD catches. He had four previous two-TD games, including one against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in 2015 as a member of the Buffalo Bills.
"It's always good to see Sammy go off," tight end Travis Kelce said. "Everything he does, you're happy for the guy just because of the type of person he is and how hard he works during the week. It's awesome to see him have a day like he did today."
Watkins had his moments early in the season. He had six catches twice, 100 yards once and a touchdown in a Week 3 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
But he had always been outdone by one of his teammates, whether that was Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill or running back Kareem Hunt -- and sometimes all of them. Even after his big game on Sunday, Watkins remains a distant third to Kelce and Hill in pass receptions and receiving yards and is fourth in receiving touchdowns.
Earlier in his career, that might have bothered Watkins. He complained about not getting the ball when he was with the Bills.
"I was young and I was kind of ego-tripping," Watkins said. "Now I'm kind of older and I understand it's a team goal and every week it's going to change. Next week Tyreek might have 180 yards or Kelce might have 180 yards and I might have 30. It's going to switch up with all these star athletes running around. I know I'm not going to get 50 targets. That's not realistic.
"I kind of went to the Rams [last season] and it was the same situation. That kind of helped my game with blocking and just staying engaged and giving that fuel to other guys out there making plays."
The Chiefs signed Watkins as a free agent this offseason to a contract worth $16 million per season. He's projecting for the season to have 68 catches, 906 yards and six touchdowns.
On the surface, the Chiefs would seem to have reason to be disappointed in their investment. But given what their offense has become under Mahomes and how much they're getting from Kelce, Hill and Hunt, it's hard for them to be disappointed in anyone, even a $16 million receiver who's mostly been a complementary player.
"His approach has been unbelievable," coach Andy Reid said. "He just comes out, does the same [thing], works hard. He's not concerned about how many catches he has or any of that. For a big-time receiver, that's unique.
"I mentioned it to the guys that there's only one ball and we have a bunch of guys who are pretty good players. When you have an opportunity, be a part of that, and he's done that. He's done a nice job with it."