The Kansas City Chiefs trailed by as many as 10 points in Super Bowl LIV to the San Francisco 49ers in the 31-20 win ending a 50-year drought for the Chiefs and second title in franchise history. Only the New York Jets (51 years) have endured a longer stretch in between titles.
Offensively they were led by Patrick Mahomes, who is 5-0 when trailing by double digits this season including 3-0 in the playoffs.
The defense was the name of the game for Chiefs shutting out the 49ers in the fourth quarter 21-0.
Captain-safety Tyrann Mathieu knew they were in familiar territory.
“It was a great challenge. That’s why I came to Kansas City to help get this team over the hump. So many people in that locker room believe in each other, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Mathieu said. “We knew we would try to out play their defense to get this win. I was glad it was us to kind of seal this game and make that big play at the end.”
Chiefs were down. Moreover, they had to be looking at the clock at times.
Mathieu has been down in life, and the clock nearly ticked away. Mathieu has a story before his Super Bowl glory.
Mathieu while attending Louisiana State University, set an SEC school record with 11 forced fumbles; the nickname “Honey Badger” was born.
In his sophomore season, the Honey Badger was recognized as a consensus All-American, won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in college football, and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Nevertheless, Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU football program after that season due to a violation of team rules.
After spending a year out of football in 2012, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, reuniting him in the defensive backfield with former college teammate Patrick Peterson. As a rookie, he was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team. In 2015, he was invited to the Pro Bowl and earned first-team All-Pro honors.
Mathieu refused to take a pay cut with Cardinals leading him to take his talents to the Houston Texans for one season. He finished the season with 89 combined tackles, three sacks, eight passes defended and two interceptions.
The steps to glory began with the Chiefs. Mathieu signed a three-year, $42 million contract. He was the second-leading tackler for the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Only one tackle behind Bashaud Breeland. Chief defense needed every tackle.
“There was a sense of urgency no doubt about it. We felt like maybe three or four series within the game it kinda got away from us. We weren’t playing our style of football,” Mathieu said. “A lot of miss tackles, a lot of blown coverages I felt like in the fourth quarter we really dialed in. we understood it was going to take everybody doing their job. Our guys did that and we kind of shut them out.”
Growing up in New Orleans’ Central City, Mathieu was raised by his grandparents. His biological mother was absent the majority of the time, and his biological father, Darrin Hayes, has been incarcerated for murder most of Mathieu’s life.
“I’m so proud of our group. I think that’s why they brought coach Spaggs (Steve Spagnuolo) here. He has a lot of great success. In big ball games, especially in the Super Bowl,” Mathieu said. “He does a great job of detailing our work. We understand what to do. It helps us play faster. I’m proud of guys committed ourselves to 21 weeks of football. That is hard to do.”
Mathieu tore his left ACL and LCL while returning a punt against the then-St. Louis Rams late in his rookie season with the Cardinals.
Then, in 2015 he tore his right ACL in the midst of an All-Pro season. Two devastating knee injuries in three seasons. He ultimately would sustain four season-altering injuries in each of his first four seasons, causing him to question whether or not football was in his future.
The second Mathieu arrived in Kansas City; it was clear the role he would play in their Super Bowl quest.
“We are not perfect. We don’t have a lot of first-rounders’ on our defense; we do have a lot of guys that love to play with each other,” Mathieu added.
Mathieu not only has stabilized and transformed the Chiefs’ defense, but he’s been an essential pillar of the Kansas City community as well. Taking part in several charitable activities from Thanksgiving Turkey give outs to Christmas shopping sprees, showing everything he’s been through has made him a different person.
Mathieu cast-off the Honey Badger nickname when he came into the league, in hopes people would get to know the real Tyrann Mathieu. This season, while leading the Chiefs in pass deflections and interceptions, he took on a new nickname — The Landlord.
“I am so grateful to have people that believe in me, even Bruce Arians and Patrick Peterson, then coming here,” Mathieu said. “It gives me a good feeling to come to work every day knowing those guys trust me with their defense. My teammates, those guys love me, they treat me well, and they listen to me. As a leader, that all you can ask for.”
He is also redeemed, the story and glory move on to a new chapter, being named a champion on the journey ahead.