GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers receiver Christian Watson’s 63-yard touchdown on Sunday night at Philadelphia looked a bit like Usain Bolt’s record-setting 100-meter dashes.
In the fourth quarter, Watson got free on a short post route, caught the ball at about the Green Bay 48 and turned on the afterburners. Reed Blankenship and Marcus Epps would have tackled almost every other receiver long before he reached the goal line. They couldn’t lay a finger on Watson.
Blankenship and Epps both ran their 40s in 4.55 seconds at their pro days. Just like Olympic sprinters who couldn’t keep up with the legendary Bolt, the Eagles’ safeties couldn’t keep up with Watson.
“I saw a bunch of green grass,” Watson said. “As soon as I broke across that safety space, I knew I was going to be able to get the edge. I felt like they had some good angles on me but I take a lot of pride in my speed. I just saw green grass and just tried to take it.”
He took it all the way to the house for his sixth touchdown in the last three games. Only 31 rookies in NFL history have a longer touchdown-receptions streak than Watson will take with him to Chicago for next week’s game. Randy Moss owns the rookie record with a seven-game touchdown streak in 1998. Billy Howton set the Packers record with a five-game scoring streak in 1952.
With elite size and speed, added polish could make Watson practically unstoppable. When he streaked diagonally across the field in the first quarter, two Eagles defenders went with him. That opened a window for Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.
“He’s totally transformed himself into a super-reliable big-play threat,” Rodgers said. “He has six touchdowns in three games; not a lot of guys have done that over my time. So, that definitely changed our offense.”
Watson finished the night with four receptions for 110 yards and the touchdown. The last three weeks, he’s caught 12 passes for 265 yards and the six scores. That’s more touchdowns than any other receiver in a loaded rookie class over the course of their full seasons.
Only seven rookies have more yards over their full seasons than Watson recorded vs. Dallas, Tennessee and Philadelphia. Only four receivers, led by Davante Adams with 10, have more touchdowns this season than Watson the last three weeks.
“I think I was just able to show the type of player I am, the things I can do with the ball in my hands,” Watson said. “Be able to create mismatches out there, win one-on-ones. It’s hard to say after a team doesn’t get it done but, obviously, I think I’ve been able to show who I am a little bit the last couple games.”
Even while missing three full games and parts of four others due to injuries, Watson has reached 20-plus miles per hour on 12 plays this season – second-most in the NFL behind Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill, who plays to his “Cheetah” nickname.
“I take a lot of pride in my speed,” Watson said. “I think that’s a big part of my game. Anytime I can create a little bit of separation and just get that edge, obviously there’s room for big plays.”
Only the Saints’ Chris Olave (three) has more 100-yard games than Watson (two). More than just a speed guy, he survived a wicked shot from star Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson for a gain of 21 in the first quarter and absorbed an illegal hit from Blankenship for a gain of 11 in the third quarter.
“First off, it’s a team game,” Watson said. “I’m not happy about anything unless we’re being successful as a team. It may sound cliché, but I’m passionate about competing. I’m passionate about winning football games. I’m passionate about football in general. If we’re not winning, everything else doesn’t matter.”