I cannot believe the NFL isn't making a bigger deal about Eric Berry.
Yes, he's been mentioned in multiple games in passing by announcers. It's always the same thing. They talk for about 30 seconds or so about how "amazing" it is he's back on the field (which is quite true) and how it's a testimony to his character and fearlessness (also true). About 30 seconds, then they move on to talk about Peyton Manning for the 9 billionth time or whatever else is on their mind.
I guess I get it. The NFL is all about hot issues and image. How could it possibly benefit them to talk constantly about a star player making a borderline miraculous recovery from cancer in which he gained a pound during treatment because of his insane desire to get on the field and... oh, that's right. It makes zero sense.
But whatever. If national reporters want to keep talking about Greg Hardy, I guess there's nothing I can do about it. What I CAN do is be the first (well, not really the first. But since there's no one to stop me as I type here, I'm gonna claim it. I'm feeling a little mad with power tonight) to tell you that Eric Berry is absolutely back.
Eric Berry has definitely recovered that strange ability to just hit HARDER than other players his size. pic.twitter.com/OeAWEDXfqP— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 20, 2015
It's good to see you again, old friend.
When Berry played in preseason and early this season, he didn't seem quite all the way back. He looked just a step slower, just a shade off. And frankly, that didn't bother me much. The fact that he made it back onto the field was a remarkable victory in and of itself. However, there was some fear (at least on my part) that we'd seen the last of "special" Eric Berry.
What makes Berry special (besides the obvious personal traits that brought him back to football) are his remarkable closing speed and his ability to hit like a player 40 pounds heavier than he actually is. Both traits are unique, and only a few players in the NFL have even one of them (let alone both). Seeing Berry close the gap on a ball carrier in a blink then level him like a linebacker is one of the great pleasures we Chiefs fans get to enjoy.
Going through treatment for cancer is torture on the body. I'm not a doctor so I won't go into details, but I'm guessing nearly all of us (unfortunately) have some experience seeing someone feel the effects of radiation and / or chemo. It takes a toll on the body. People often aren't ever the same.
As much as I wanted to believe Berry could somehow go through that and remain a superhuman, I just couldn't convince myself it would happen.
Well, it has. And the Chiefs know it. They're back to using Berry all over the field. And I mean ALL OVER the field. Against the Broncos, he lined up as a deep safety multiple times (as single high and part of cover 2 looks).
In that role, Berry appears to has found his footing. He doesn't move forward after the snap the way he used to (generally speaking, when you're playing deep safety you don't want to get sucked forward. Remember Demps? Sorry, I know this is a happy place). He's showing good movement with his feet and is able to cover a ton of ground while following the quarterback's eyes.
But, just like before he was forced to leave football for a time last season, Berry has shown he can be used to mess with offensive coordinators' (and quarterbacks') minds by being found every else as well.
Here's Berry lining up in man coverage.
Here is is playing a shallow zone (he appears to have an eye on the RB, who ends up staying in to pass protect, but it's impossible to say whether the initial assignment called for him to be in that middle zone or if he just stayed there because the RB didn't come out of the backfield)
Pretty much anywhere in the secondary you can think of a player lining up, Berry was there at some point on Sunday.
Of course, any old safety can line up all over the secondary. If we REALLY want to believe Berry is back to being used everywhere on the field, there ought to be some instances where he's lined up right on the line of scrimmage like a blitzing linebacker.
Oh, hey there Eric.
Berry was part of the jailbreak blitz that forced Manning to (fortunately) make a poor overthrow to a wide open receiver (my heart was in my THROAT when that ball was in the air).
Very few things are more fun than watching Eric Berry blitz quarterbacks. He's so ridiculously fast that it feels like the Chiefs have dialed up some kind of cheat code (like when you were a kid and you created a pass rusher with "acceleration" and "speed" both dialed up to 99). He also is the rare secondary player who will take offensive linemen on in his rush if that's what it takes for the overall blitz to succeed. It's glorious.
I've heard people say Berry looked better than he ever has Sunday. I wouldn't go that far. But he was a major asset on the field for the Chiefs. Think about that for a second. A year ago we were all adjusting to the idea that Berry's football career was likely over, and were just hopeful that he'd live. Now, he's a big part of one of the hottest defenses in football.
There are no words.
I'm hopeful the season continues to turn around for the Chiefs (with the defense being the pivotal part in that turnaround), but regardless of what else happens this year, seeing Eric Berry back to doing what he does makes this year special.
And it makes it that much more difficult for quarterbacks who hope to test any area of the field Berry is roaming. Be warned, QB's; that window you think is open? Yeah, it's not.
Smooth backpeddle, eyes on QB, sees throw, closes with frightening speed, destroys WR going for ball. Wow, Eric. pic.twitter.com/LZnc0sw7gg— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 19, 2015
Sweet mother of all that's good and pure. Welcome back, Eric. You were sincerely missed.