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Bruce Arians: Tyrann Mathieu not playing like himself this season

Safety Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals, left, and Brandon Williams, right, attend an NFL training session at the London Irish rugby team training ground in the Sunbury-on-Thames, a suburb of south west London, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. The Arizona Cardinals are preparing for an NFL regular season game against the Los Angeles Rams in London on Sunday. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu finished the 2015 season tied for sixth in the league with five interceptions in 14 games.

Mathieu played 67.5 percent of his defensive snaps at cornerback that season, and Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade at the position.

But Mathieu intercepted only one pass in 10 games in 2016 and registered 35 tackles, less than half as many compared to 2015 (89).

Head coach Bruce Arians met with the media on Wednesday in London and said Mathieu has not looked like the 2015 version of himself on the field this season.

“No. Healthy-wise, he is, but he’s not playing like it yet,” Arians said.

PFF had Mathieu as the lowest-graded safety in football on Sept. 27, and his overall grade for the season of 47.5 is considered poor on PFF’s scale. Through six games, he has one interception, two passes defensed and 29 tackles.

Mathieu’s performance combined with Justin Bethel up-and-down early season play probably explain some of why the Cardinals’ defense has given up the sixth-most passing yards (1,500) and the second most touchdowns (13).

Arians said Mathieu’s performance this season probably has to do with his confidence, but the former LSU Tiger told the media on Thursday he feels good going forward.

“I think confidence comes with, like I said, making splash plays, just making the plays that I’ve made since I was 5 years old, and those plays will come,” Mathieu said. “Like I said, my focus right now is playing well in critical situations.”

Mathieu said he can no longer focus on splash plays because those will come with consistent performances in critical situations. The former third-round pick said that is his mindset going forward.

“Yeah, I would say so,” Mathieu said. “It would have definitely taken me out of my game, but I’ve got a great group of guys around me. I think, ultimately, my teammates believe in me, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”

Mathieu flashed in the preseason and many thought the Honey Badger was back. But other than a game-sealing interception against the Indianapolis Colts, his performances in exhibition games has yet to translate to the games that count.

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