Tyrann Mathieu could have done some pretty painful things to Deshaun Watson as Sunday’s divisional round game against the Houston Texans came to a close.
In the final few minutes of the game, the Kansas City Chiefs safety had a clear shot at Watson standing in the pocket. It was a hole that defensive players dream, an opportunity to lay a bone-crushing hit on a quarterback. Twenty years ago, a player in Mathieu’s situation bulldozes the quarterback and doesn’t think twice.
Instead, Mathieu gave Watson a very physical bear hug, but didn’t even force the quarterback down after Watson had made a quick pass.
Mathieu’s reason for letting Watson throw the pass, even during a play that gave the Texans 1st-and-goal when a hit could have been perfectly legal? The game was over, with the Chiefs up 51-31 with two minutes left in the game.
The former Texan explained that rationale in a tweet Monday morning, mentioning his friendship with his ex-teammate.
That is pretty refreshing from the Honey Badger, and a reflection of the trend the NFL has been hoping to see among defensive players with quarterbacks.
Even if the Texans scored a touchdown on that drive, which they didn’t, the Chiefs would have still been up two scores with less than two minutes left. Outside of a few seconds of highlight reel footage, destroying Watson carried no benefit for the Chiefs at that point of the game. Avoiding the hard hit also possibly saved Watson from a very painful start to the offseason.
Big hits were once a feature of NFL games for many fans, but prioritizing the long-term health of quarterbacks has turned it into a bug. Texans fans should be happy Mathieu is cognizant of that, and Chiefs are probably fine with it too if they want Patrick Mahomes to receive the same treatment in the future.
More from Yahoo Sports: