The Chiefs are coming off of a loss where the defense blew a fourteen point lead. It’s hard to feel any better about this unit that seems to be going into a nosedive at the wrong time of the season. But if there’s one guy who can bring enough effort to save this defense, it’s Eric Berry.
When Berry returned last game, it was the first time he had stepped on the field in over fifteen months. Since he left the opening game in the 2017 season with a torn Achilles, Berry had served basically as an assistant coach for the Chiefs defense. He also continued to be a motivational leader for the team as well. Berry looked really good in his return as if he had not missed any games at all. Berry flew around, running through blocks to create tackles.
Due to the amount of time he missed though, Berry was on a pitch count and only played in the first half of the loss to the Chargers and his presence was deeply missed in the second half. Kansas City likely comes away with a win if Berry would have played in the second half. The Chiefs allowed almost a whole yard more per rush attempt without Berry, compared to when he was in. Plus, the accountability was not there, especially in the final two and a half minutes.
Counting on Accountability
Let’s look at that for a second. The accountability of the Chiefs defense seems to come in spurts. When the defense can only come through every once in a while, the Chiefs have been handcuffed into running a more simple defense.
With Berry in the fold, the accountability will not be as much of a worry. The Chiefs though have a need to change up their looks more. When defensive coordinator Bob Sutton disguises different looks that is where he has had success.
Sutton: Success or Suck?
Now let’s take a look at the Chiefs defense as a whole since Sutton became the defensive coordinator in 2013. In 2013-15, Kansas City’s defense was in the top ten in total defense, passing defense and scoring defense in at least two of those three years in all three categories. Afterwards, in 2016-18, Kansas City’s defense is in the bottom in all three categories all three years. Also, Sutton’s defense was top ten in points allowed per drive every year, except for the last two seasons. In 2017 and 2018, the Chiefs defense was in the bottom twelve in that category in both seasons. Bottom line, what used to work for Sutton’s defense has been figured out by opposing offenses.
When you look at Berry’s importance in this defense, you can see how much they have fallen without him over the years. His ability to create plays for others on the defense by getting into the right spot and disrupting the opposing offense’s plans is where Berry brings so much to everyone on the team.
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By helping to improve in run defense, the Chiefs can put Berry in the box to help contain the running game. By trying to do that with Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen or even Eric Murray does not provide a solution at all. We mentioned how Berry blows through blocks, but his ability to recognize where the run is going is something that he seems to solely posses among the Chiefs safeties. Berry is also more capable of being disciplined in man or zone coverage, which is something the other aforementioned safeties have struggled on this season. They brought back Parker at the end of the preseason because he “knew the playbook.” But, that seems to have not been enough. Berry is someone who knows the playbook better than anyone, and he will try to make his teammates right.
Eric Berry has had to deal with overcoming a torn ACL, cancer and a torn Achilles. The hope he brings to his teammates is insurmountable. So, if he looks as good as he did in the first half against the Chargers though, the Chiefs may have received just enough of a boost at the right time in the season.
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