Buffalo was able to get the ball down the field en route to dropping 36 points and 422 total yards of offense. While it was not enough for the Bills to come out on top in what was one of the better postseason games in NFL history, Honey Badger’s absence was felt.
Fast forward to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mathieu had been questionable pretty much all way as he had failed to clear NFL concussion protocols. As the week progressed, it became apparent that the Pro Bowl safety would in fact be able to suit up. The Chiefs made that official mere hours before kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium.
Related: Bengals at Chiefs bold predictions
Impact of Tyrann Mathieu returning in AFC Championship Game
As noted above, the Bills were able to take advantage of Mathieu missing three-plus quarters. That included Gabriel Davis putting up a single-game playoff record four touchdown catches. The likes of Daniel Sorensen and Juan Thornhill struggled in coverage.
If Honey Badger were not able to go Sunday, the Bengals’ offense might have proven too much for Kansas City’s questionable secondary.
The connection of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase has been electric all season, including the playoffs. In their two postseason dates leading up to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, the young tandem connected on 14 receptions for 225 yards.
We’re not saying Tyrann Mathieu will be able to stop the young duo by himself. But he provides elite-level coverage over the top. The expectation has to be that defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will now look to double Chase.
During the regular season, Mathieu yielded an 88.1 QB rating in coverage. It was down from the 60.2 mark he gave up back in 2020.