On any given play, you might find the All-Pro safety lined up on one side of the field. After the snap, he's no longer there and making a tackle across the field. It feels like he knew the play call before the snap. Like he's inside the opposing offensive coordinator's head.
Well, that's exactly what he's trying to let opposing coach know.
If you've watched the Chiefs this season, when one of these types of plays occur, there is a good chance you'd see Mathieu performing his new ritual after the play is over. He stares down the opposing sideline and taps his index finger against the side of his helmet at his temple.
"I feel like I'm at that point in my career now where I've seen a lot of football and I'm pretty ball aware," Mathieu said to a few members of the media at the team hotel Wednesday morning. "And then it kind of messes with the coaches, right?! If they draw up a certain play and I like come out of nowhere and bat the ball down and look at their sideline, I would hope that that does something to the offensive coordinator."
What is the message he's sending?
"That I'm too smart," Mathieu said. "Way too smart."
Mathieu has instincts that Chiefs' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo refuses to take away. At times within games, Spagnuolo catches himself on the sideline yelling, "What are you doing?" when he watches Mathieu go off script. Then, once the safety, who insisted on leading his defense, makes the play because he sniffed it out, Spagnuolo ends up shouting, "Good play!"
"It's a lot about feel and I give him free rein," Spagnuolo said last week in Kansas City. "He has great feel. He's not doing it how you draw it up, but he's doing it off of instincts. He's an instinctive player and I don't ever want to pull that away from him so we let him go."
"I just have so much fun out there, man," Mathieu said. "Like I said, a lot of this stuff is second nature in a sense that I try and strain myself in practice, and I've had some good coaches in my life. But a lot of this stuff I've seen before in my sleep. Maybe I've seen it in a game. Maybe I've seen it when I daydream. I just see certain plays all day."
Mathieu finds what he's doing infectious and other players have started doing it as well. There's a chance it could happen Sunday on the biggest stage in sports. Mathieu making a play and staring down 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and tapping his temple.