Before the Chiefs played a snap Sunday, as the players huddled together for final pre-game notes, safety Tyrann Mathieu delivered a lasting message.
Play this game for L’Jarius, he said, as a teammate recalled.
The Chiefs beat the Raiders 48-9 on Sunday, playing without one of their most reliable defensive players but playing for him.
Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed is back in his hometown of Minden, Louisiana, where older brother T’Qarontarion “TQ” Harrison was stabbed and killed Friday. A woman has since been charged in his death.
“Our hearts go out to him,” coach Andy Reid said. “Great kid, great player. … That locker room is grieving with him.”
“He is on our mind a lot,” Mathieu added. “Anytime somebody loses somebody that close to him, I feel like most of us can relate to that. We just wanted to play for him today and his family.”
They did. From the jump.
On the first snap of the game, the Chiefs scored a touchdown … despite the Raiders receiving the opening kick. Defensive tackle Jarran Reed pried the ball loose from Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, and cornerback Mike Hughes — Sneed’s replacement in the lineup, as it so happens — scooped it up and scored.
“I feel like we started the game with some L’Jarius energy,” Mathieu said. “We kept it going throughout the game.”
Before Sunday’s game, no Chiefs player had been on the field for more defensive snaps than Sneed’s 756. Without him, Hughes played outside cornerback, and Mathieu shifted to the slot. They learned at 5 a.m. Saturday of their new assignments.
It was secondary. A minor problem, in comparison.
Mathieu said he spent the weekend in contact with Sneed through text messages and FaceTime, though he also wanted to offer him some space.
Multiple teammates did the same.
Sneed has not yet determined when he will re-join the team.
“Such a tragic situation for him. And as a brotherhood and as an organization and a team, we’re going to support our brothers,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I thought guys played hard for him today — we got the win.
“I’m just praying for him and his family. It’s a tough deal. We want him to be in a good spot as a person before anything on the football field.”