Chiefs anticipate more flexibility with Eric Berry’s usage against Seattle

There’s a play that sticks out in Bob Sutton’s mind from Thursday’s loss to the L.A. Chargers.

The Chargers were at first-and-goal from Kansas City’s 4-yard-line early in the second quarter. The ball was snapped to quarterback Philip Rivers and handed off to rookie running back Justin Jackson.

For a brief moment, it looked like there was a wide open lane for Jackson to run across the goal line.

Then, like a heat-seeking missile, Chiefs safety Eric Berry accelerated and met Jackson before he could slip into that hole. Berry went low, grabbing him just below the waist and forced him to the ground for a gain of only a yard.

It was a signature Eric Berry play. The kind that the Chiefs had been missing all season.

“That’s just his play-making ability, which is a great tool in leadership because you’re making plays and people respond to you,” said Sutton, the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator. “You’re a playmaker guy, and that’s what he’s been his whole career, as you know. He’s blessed with great speed and I think he’s the most physical football player. He does a great job.”

Against the Chargers, the Chiefs only had Berry for one half — 30 snaps. In that time, he led the Chiefs in tackles with six. Against Seattle, they figure to have him for a couple more.

Though Sutton wouldn’t reveal the exact plan for Berry, he does envision using him more in his second game back from nagging heel soreness that kept him out the first 14 weeks of the season.

“I think this one he probably will be a little more flexible and see how he feels,” Sutton said Thursday. “I think we’ll just have to monitor it, if there’s long drives. Say ‘OK, does he need a break?’ I think what everybody here has a real confidence in him being able to say, ‘I got to back this down here and go like that.’ We haven’t really talked about exactly, is he going to play 40 plays this week or 50 plays. I think just play it by ear a little bit, see where they come about.”

After playing in the first half of Thursday night’s game, Berry had a couple extra days to recover. “Bounced back pretty well,” Berry said of his feeling after playing. “I’m pleased with where I’m at right now.”

On Wednesday, he was a full participant in practice for the first time all season. He was also a full participant on Thursday.

“Feeling pretty good,” Berry said of practicing. “Just want to clean myself up on the few looks that I’ve seen. Keep getting the chemistry down with the defense. It’s been fun though.”

Since playing last week, Berry and his coaches have watched his film and analyzed what needs to be fixed before taking on the Seahawks.

Though Sutton believes Berry will see an improvement in his reaction time the more games he plays, he noticed that there wasn’t a particularly big difference in Berry’s speed and quickness post-injury.

“I thought he brought a lot of energy,” Sutton said. “I thought he was very aggressive. One of the things you really notice with him on the field is the physicality that he brings to the defense. Some of them aren’t big plays, but all of a sudden a hole’s being stuffed up differently. I thought he played real aggressively. There’s some things he’s got to do better obviously, just being out there.

“He got in about 30 snaps or something and that’s about as many as we would hope for. He played and he came out of it pretty good. Hopefully he can keep going.”

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Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs for the Kansas City Star, where she works to give readers a deeper understanding of the franchise and the NFL through daily stories, game coverage, and player profiles. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C.