Will Eric Berry’s return be enough to propel the Chiefs to Super Bowl XLIII?
The Kansas City Chiefs and their 31st-ranked defense could be getting some big help when they need it the most.
Safety Eric Berry, who missed almost the entire regular season and playoffs due to a heel injury, appears on track to play in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. A five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro, Berry’s presence will be felt in the secondary as the Chiefs attempt to slow down quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots’ eighth-ranked passing offense.
One of Berry’s primary tasks will be slowing down Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who only caught two passes for 33 yards when they last faced off in Week 1 of the 2017 season (the Chiefs would go on to win but Berry ruptured his Achilles’ tendon late in the game). When the teams played each other this season in Week 6, Gronkowski went off for 97 receiving yards with Berry out of the lineup and the Patriots won on a 28-yard field goal as time expired. Kansas City’s defense collapsed on the final drive, allowing Gronkowski to set up the game-winning field goal with a critical 39-yard catch to put the Patriots in easy field goal range with under a minute left in the game.
In addition to keeping the Patriots’ passing game in check, Berry and the defense will have to slow down New England’s fifth-ranked rushing attack, which is coming off a 155 yard game in last week’s playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs allowed 5.0 yards per carry against opposing offenses this year, second-worst in the league. Berry’s presence should give the defense a boost against the run.
Despite missing most of the season with injuries, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid expressed optimism when describing how Berry has looked in practice this week. “He looked good out there. I see him out there looking like Eric Berry.”
If the Chiefs want to advance to their first Super Bowl in nearly 50 years, they’ll need Eric Berry to play at his typical All Pro level.