KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs defenders flying to the football proved a common sight throughout Sunday’s 33-3 win over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
And one particular play early in the second quarter from safety Eric Berry epitomized the defensive ferocity.
Facing a second-and-10 at the Chiefs’ 40-yard line, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hit wide receiver Stevie Johnson on a quick pass on the left side of the line of scrimmage. The play appeared to have promise, as two offensive linemen pulled in front of Johnson to block downfield.
Berry wasn’t deterred, however, and went low to shed the block of one lineman while maintaining balance to lunge forward and stop Johnson for a minimal 3-yard gain.
Coach Andy Reid offered high praise for Berry’s individual effort.
“That tackle he made on the quick screen, I thought was a superior play,” Reid said Monday in a conference call with Chiefs beat writers. “You just don’t see that very often where he goes underneath an offensive lineman, pops up and makes a tackle on a screen. I mean, that was ninja-esque.”
Reid couldn’t be happier how far the former All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl safety has come since initially being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma on Nov. 24, 2014.
“I mentioned after the game,” Reid said, “I saw him back when he literally had the one hair coming out of his chin and he refused to shave that one hair – it was the only one he had. And telling me that he was going to play – that he was going to be back and better than ever.”
Berry, who finished Sunday’s game with a season-high eight tackles, stuck to his word and was declared cancer free on June 22 before returning to the team in time for training camp on July 27.
Reid admits it was difficult to believe at first based on what he observed of Berry undergoing treatments, but the faith didn’t waver.
“What your eyes tell you and what your heart tells you are two different things sometimes,” Reid said. “In my heart, I was hoping that that would happen and he’s done that. So he’s come back every week, he’s gotten a little bit better and he’s playing real good football right now.”
Berry’s 41 total tackles (36 solo) currently ranks fifth on the team. He also has two interceptions, which is tied for second-most on the team, and eight passes defensed.
FLIPPING THE FIELD
The Chargers average starting field position against the Chiefs was the 15.4-yard line, and much of that can be credited to punter Dustin Colquitt.
Colquitt booted four of his five punts inside the 20-yard line and finished the game with 203 yards punting, averaging 40.6 net yards.
“His ability to change field position, that was a major factor in that game,” coach Andy Reid said Monday. “He deserves some accolades there for that.”
The role of Colquitt and kicker Cairo Santos, who had five touchbacks Sunday, in flipping the field has afforded the Chiefs defense an advantage in recent weeks.
“It is, against powerful offenses like we’ve faced here the last few weeks here,” Reid said. “That becomes a factor. It’s tough to drive the length of the field each and every series. The percentages work against you. That part, I mentioned after the game – field position I think, is swayed in our favor and it’s due to those guys.”
Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.