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Tyrann Mathieu says returning to his hometown will be ‘just another game’

The Chiefs safety will be playing in New Orleans for just the second time since joining the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It seems a little hard to believe, but Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu — now in the eighth season of his career — has played an NFL game in his hometown of New Orleans only once. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Mathieu recalled the game, which was in Week 3 of 2013.

“To take you way, way, way back... my rookie year, my first interception was off Drew Brees,” he recalled. “Actually, it was in the Superdome — but we lost the game, so I don’t really remember it too fondly.”

As well he shouldn’t. Mathieu’s interception was pretty much the only blemish on Brees’ day. He threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns (and ran for another) as his New Orleans Saints walloped Mathieu’s Arizona Cardinals 31-7.

“I was starting — but I wasn’t the starting safety,” said Mathieu, “but our starting safety got hurt so I had to kind of play every down. So my emotions were high, being a young guy.’’

In typical Landlord fashion, Mathieu still takes responsibility for the loss.

“In my mind.” he said, “I didn’t make enough plays — so this time around, hopefully, I can make enough plays to kind of help my team win.”

As Mathieu spoke, the Chiefs — and the rest of the NFL world — knew there was a possibility Brees could play when Kansas City and New Orleans meet on Sunday — but were presuming that the Chiefs’ efforts would be directed at stopping jack-of-all-trades quarterback Taysom Hill, who has been filling in for Brees since he suffered multiple rib injuries (and a punctured lung) in mid-November. But on Friday, reports surfaced that Brees will be starting against the Chiefs.

If that holds true, the news is both good and bad. With his running ability, Hill brings an additional dimension to the Saints offense. But in the four games he’s started at quarterback — in which the Saints have gone 3-1 — he’s thrown a pair of interceptions to go along with his four touchdown passes. He’s also fumbled six times.

In contrast, at this stage of his career — now in its 20th year — Brees is the prototypical efficient quarterback, completing a league-leading 73.5% of his passes for 2,196 yards (along with 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions) in nine starts, in which he’s fumbled just five times.

So it’s likely that preparing to face one of the NFC’s best teams — and two quarterbacks who could hardly be more dissimilar — hasn’t allowed Mathieu to reflect too much about returning to his hometown this weekend.

“Yeah,” he said, “it’ll just be another game for me.”