THE FOLLOWING IS A FREE PREVIEW SLICE FROM
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
7 TACKLES (5 SOLO)
Stealing his first playoff interception in 6 postseason appearances, Tyrann Mathieu tilted the balance toward Kansas City's favor in last weekend's Divisional round vs Cleveland.
Sneaking in front of Baker Mayfield's intended target (Mathieu's former 2011 Tigers teammate Jarvis Landry) "The Honeybadger" tracked down Baker's bulleted pass and stepped out to grasp his destiny.
Sporting waiting arms and attacking hands, Mathieu read Mayfield faster & easier than he can get through a chapter of Curious George Gets A Pick Six, but it won't be his last.
What a game he had against a few former Tigers on the other side during a wind-swept, freezing day in Kansas City: Chiefs' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's captain proceeded to pile-drive the Browns for 7 tackles, 5 solo shots including a few mano e mano moments tangling with Landry once again, however the interception (behind a 19-3 lead) turned out to be the play of most consequence (alongside his trio of second half tackles on 3rd down):
Regardless of the fact neither the Chiefs' high octane offense nor field goal unit could punch in his turnover for points (or sustain a drive longer than 33 seconds), The Honeybadger's interception, brutality, organization & intimidation most likely afforded the Chiefs' secondary just enough time to run out the clock when backup QB Chad Henne came in the game late to replace the concussed Pat Mahomes.
Before the INT, Mayfield threw the ball fearlessly...after the pick, he was antsy and cycled through his progressions unnecessarily, allowing the Chiefs' secondary to hone in on the former Heisman winner's targets.
Thanks to Mathieu's 2nd quarter pick, Baker went 23/37 for 204 yards, the Chiefs' secondary (without Breeland) produced 5 pass deflections, the pass rush generated 3 QB hits and 1 sack, although the statistics don't tell the tale...watch the tape. Baker was scared of getting picked again by the Honeybadger...he could sense #32 watching his every movement...
What a psychological mountain...and still Mayfield made some gutty throws and won my full respect as an NFL contending quarterback, even with the ugly 2020 numbers, Baker's a gamer...and Tyrann understood he had to shut down any quarterback confidence.
All in all, if not for Mathieu's earlier pick, Andy Reid's late-game play calling would've been forced into far more indecision (Henne under center) with more time left on the clock and a resurgent Browns' offense wearing through the Chiefs.
Yet just like in last year's come from behind Super Bowl win against the 49ers, Tyrann rallied his troops around him to withstand the siege and together they held against the Browns until it was far too late, even as starting corner Brashaud Breeland left the game with a concussion just as the Chiefs' starting QB Patrick Mahomes had previously...
Somehow, Tyrann Mathieu is able to inject this "never give in, never surrender" mentality which has proven infectious among a group of defenders who know their offense will pick it up sooner or later...they know Mahomes and co will generate bursts of points and thanks to their longer, methodical 1st half drives utilizing former Tiger Darrel Williams at running back, the Chiefs' defense had just enough gas in the tank to take it home for a 3rd straight AFC title game.
Mathieu once led the Tigers defense against Alabama in the 2012 BCS title game, withstanding one onslaught after another, turning Tide touchdown threats into punts & field goals as the LSU offense failed to cross midfield until the 4th quarter...I've never seen anything like it...
Throughout the one-sided game, Mathieu proved to the world what he was made of, whether HOF GM Bill Polian wanted to recognize it or not: while backed into a corner, knowing their offense wouldn't win the game for them, they did everything possible to win that title game on their own...as a defense...
So, imagine going into an AFC title game knowing you have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, all these weapons on offense, the return of Tiger running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but you also have this "win the game on defense" mindset coming from your defensive captain...no wonder they came from behind in every playoff game last year including the Super Bowl (in which Mathieu made a big time, high profile, game changing speech at the Chiefs' lowest point, galvanizing his teammates toward victory)....
Mathieu Infinity and beyond....
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: COACH O....WE LOVE YOU!!! WE'RE BEHIND YOU 100%