KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense lined up to be introduced before Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, a team staffer told defensive lineman Chris Jones he’d be the last one in line.
“You’re going last,” Jones was told.
“No, I’m not,” he shot back.
That honor generally belongs to safety Tyrann Mathieu, and Jones was not about to usurp the All-Pro safety’s ceremonial spot.
But Mathieu was seated on Kansas City’s bench and wouldn’t participate in the pregame pomp after landing on the injury report Sunday morning with a swollen knee.
“He had surgery on that knee at one time and his knee swelled up overnight, which is a little unusual, but it’s done that in the offseason,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained. “It hasn’t done it during the season.”
Mathieu, who is the heart and soul of Kansas City’s defense, was in jeopardy of having to sit out against a Dallas team that entered play averaging the most yards per game, most points and most yards per play in the NFL this season.
“My hat goes off to him letting us know when he got up and getting in here and getting treatment done,” Reid said. “Then, wanting to play, that’s the next thing. He was in here for hours getting treatment. That kid, he’s an amazing kid. The fact that he was out there doing what he did is likewise amazing. ... He is a Badger, right?”
As it turns out, there was no chance Mathieu — better known as the Honey Badger for audacious, devil-may-care playing style — was going to miss the game. He and the trainers worked to get the swelling out of his knee, and he reported feeling well enough to go during warmups.
Still, Reid said Mathieu was excused from pregame introductions to stay off the leg and rest.
“The warrior ‘T-5’ is, I knew he was going to have to play,” Jones said, referring to Mathieu by one of his many nicknames. “He’s such a warrior. He wasn’t going to miss this game. That’s one thing I know about T-5, he’s a competitor at the highest level. He loves to compete, and he especially loves these types of games and these situations.”
Mathieu — who said “T-5” comes from his first initial and adding together his uniform number, since some people have trouble pronouncing his first name — was credited with three tackles and also made some plays downfield in the passing game, though he wasn’t officially credited with any passes defended.
He was a key piece nonetheless for a defense that allowed only 276 yards in a 19-9 win, giving the defense four straight games with fewer than 17 points and 350 yards allowed for the first time since December 2019.
“The Badger helps bring it all together with his leadership, and that helps,” Reid said. “He felt obligated to be out there with his guys. You start getting that type of a feeling (with a team), and that’s a good thing.”
After limping to a 3-4 start, Kansas City, which has won the last two AFC championships, has won four consecutive games entering its bye week fueled by a defense that has cranked things up in the last month while the offense struggled at times.
Mathieu is a big reason why, and he was there when it mattered as far as Jones is concerned.
“It caught me off guard (during pregame introductions), but the first play he was out there,” Jones said. “That’s the willpower of T-5. He’s probably battling something right now and, in his mind, he blocks it out and does what he can to help the defense.”