FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The equipment is where?
Word that a substantial portion of the Kansas City Chiefs equipment wouldn’t arrive until Sunday because of a travel snafu was not exactly what Tyrann Mathieu needed to hear before a big game.
“I was worried,” Mathieu told USA TODAY Sports. “I’ve kind of got the whole Deion Sanders pregame ritual. I like to lay my stuff out. So, I had to wait. I was hoping it didn’t affect my play. I’m very superstitious.”
The Honey Badger can exhale. It worked out.
The Chiefs (9-4) clinched a fourth consecutive AFC West crown with a 23-16 victory against the Patriots and collected some new gear – bright red T-shirts that read “The West is Not Enough” – that was right on time.
The pre-game anxiety, though, was caused by what a Chiefs spokesman called an “honest mistake” when equipment for more than half the players was diverted to Newark after the chartered airplane continued on after flying the team to New England on Saturday. Interestingly, the missing equipment wasn’t discovered until early Sunday because the equipment managers couldn’t get into the visitor’s locker room as they typically would on Saturday, due to high school games staged at Gillette Stadium that day.
Now we know: The Chiefs were prepared to adapt before and during the game.
“We were ready to roll,” Mathieu said. “I feel like we really prepared the right way this week. Coaches weren’t stressing us out about playing against the Patriots. It was a relaxed environment, but we understood the commitment that all of us had to make. A lot of guys made the commitment to really focus on the details this week. We tried to throw some different coverages in there. I thought that kind of helped us for about 3 ½ quarters, until Tom Brady figured it out.”
As he put on his new T-shirt at his locker, it was apparent that Mathieu’s pre-game stress had long been relieved. He was excited that the Chiefs’ oft-maligned-but-improving defense closed out the victory by shutting the door on Brady as the Patriots were in close range for a potentially game-tying touchdown.
“I’m happy we were able to finish the game,” Mathieu said. “There have been so many games in this season, specifically, I really count the four losses…defensively, we were on the field at the end and we didn’t make the play. Lately, we’ve been able to make those plays.”
On Sunday, it was a textbook pass defense in the end zone by Bashaud Breeland on fourth down from the 5 – the cornerback reached over Julian Edelman with one arm and slapped the football away – that sealed the deal.
With Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark representing the most significant additions to a Chiefs unit that Brady shredded in overtime in last season’s AFC title game, the reversal of the crunch-time result in the latest matchup against the Patriots might have been the best indicator yet that the revamped defense is poised to bring a different mojo in the playoffs.