While Tyrann Mathieu and the Kansas City Chiefs were busy preparing for the Buffalo Bills after a 22-17 AFC Divisional win on Sunday, things weren’t quite as peachy down in his hometown of New Orleans.
Most notably for 42-year-old Saints QB Drew Brees, who came up short in the highly anticipated matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 43-year-old counterpart Tom Brady. Unfortunately for football fans everywhere, the Saints’ 30-20 loss was the last game of Brees’ historic 20-year career, as reported by FOX NFL Sunday’s Jay Glazer earlier in the day.
After the playoff nightcap, the Chiefs All-Pro safety took to Twitter with a touching shoutout, writing, “Being from New Orleans Drew Brees meant everything to us in that city….. at many times our only hope, you know to smile & feel good, to live in a winning reality…. that man gave us all life…. none of us are perfect but he was close Salute !! #9Forever.”
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Mathieu Receives Big Props for Impact Made on Chiefs
Now in his eighth season as a pro, the former LSU star has grown up in the NFL alongside one of its all-time icons, even securing his first career interception as a rookie in 2013 at the expense of Brees. While the respect he holds for the New Orleans legend is evident, it’s Mathieu who deserves (more) credit for his career transformation and lasting impact made on the Chiefs organization and Kansas City community.
On Sunday, a few notable media personalities — Fox Sports’ Nick Wright and 13-year safety turned ESPN analyst Ryan Clark — and one legendary NFL defensive back delivered the goods.
Not everything Mathieu has accomplished in his two seasons with the Chiefs has been tangible, but his on-field success and leadership is also undeniably part of his story. After a career-high six interceptions in the regular season (third-most in the league), the 28-year-old was back at it again on Sunday, recording a team-high seven tackles, one pass breakup and his first-career postseason interception.
After the playoff win, Mathieu also took the time to impart some veteran wisdom upon Browns second-year LB Mack Wilson — who delivered the concussion-inducing tackle on Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.
Mathieu Gives Love to Chad Henne for Late-Game Heroics
Named one of Kansas City’s six playoff captains by his teammates for the second year in a row, Mathieu did what great leaders do during his postgame press conference on Sunday: recognize those around them.
After entering the game midway through the fourth quarter in relief of an injured Mahomes, veteran backup QB Chad Henne was on the receiving end of some high praise from his All-NFL teammate.
“One of the things I notice about him… he’s a true professional,” Mathieu told reporters, via ESPN’s Jeff Darlington. “He’s always ready. Monday through Friday, he prepares every day like he’s going to play that week.”
Mathieu, who also said that he and Henne have a special bond since the two talk almost every morning, witnessed the 35-year-old’s preparation first-hand on Sunday afternoon. Facing a 3rd & 14 inside his own territory with a five-point lead and two minutes to play, Henne picked up nearly all the necessary yardage on a gutsy run up the left sideline.
That was all head coach Andy Reid needed to put his trust in Henne to complete a surprise first-down pass on the ensuing play to send the Chiefs to a historic third consecutive AFC Championship game next Sunday.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!