Four-time All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu cleared Covid protocols the day before Kansas City’s season-opening game against the Cleveland Browns. However, Mathieu had not been with the team for the previous ten days so head coach Andy Reid decided to hold him out and started former Cavalier Juan Thornhill instead.
Thornhill made the best of his opportunity, leading the Chiefs in total tackles and making several big plays to help the Chiefs to a hard-fought 33-29 victory over the Browns on Sunday.
Early in the third quarter with the Chiefs trailing the Browns 22-17, Thornhill made a tackle on a Nick Chubb run and forced Chubb to fumble the ball, which was recovered by the Chiefs. The turnover stalled a Cleveland drive that could have extended the Browns’ lead.
With a little over five minutes left in the game and the Chiefs leading 33-29, Thornhill made a great play to break up a third-down pass intended for Anthony Schwartz to force a Cleveland punt.
Thornhill finished with a team-leading seven total tackles, five of which were solo tackles, as well as the forced fumble and pass breakup.
“I thought he just got more confident as the game went on,” said head coach Andy Reid after the game. “And Juan’s a real smart kid and so him seeing it and putting himself in position normally gives him a pretty good opportunity to make plays and that’s what he did… He’s really a good tackler.”
Early indications suggest that Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorensen will be the two starting safeties for the Chiefs at Baltimore next Sunday, but Thornhill’s performance against the Browns has certainly raised the question of whether Thornhill ought to have a spot in Kansas City’s starting defensive lineup.