Chiefs lose All-Pro safety Eric Berry for season in impressive opener

Smith, Hunt, Hill lead Kansas City offense to breakout performance against defending Super Bowl champs

Kansas City safety Eric Berry receives attention on the field after suffering an injury during the fourth quarter of the Chiefs’ 42-27 win Thursday at New England. Berry ruptured his Achilles tendon while covering Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and will be lost for the season. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One of the biggest season-opening wins in Chiefs history came at the expense of their All-Pro safety.


Eric Berry ruptured his left Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s 42-27 victory over the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, not only ending his season but leaving the Chiefs without one of the most visible and vocal leaders on their defense.

“You’re not going to replace Eric Berry with another Eric Berry. That’s not what happens,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who confirmed the team’s initial fears in a conference call Friday. “But the guys know that Eric would be disappointed if they let off the accelerator at all. I think we’ll be OK there.”

Berry was hurt while covering Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on a passing route. He hobbled at the end of the play and promptly sat on the turf, where the team’s training staff began examining him. Berry did not appear to be in obvious discomfort, but it took a cart to remove him from the field.

The Chiefs have dealt with a rash of Achilles tendon injuries in recent years, including two sustained by Derrick Johnson. The star linebacker’s latest occurred late last season, but he managed to return to the field by summer workouts and was a full participant in training camp.

Berry also has a history of overcoming serious hurdles in his career.

He missed most of the 2011 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, only to start 16 games the following season. He also missed the final 10 games of the 2014 regular season while undergoing treatment for lymphoma, only to return to training camp and again play all 16 games the following season.

Berry was coming off arguably his best year in 2016, when he made 77 tackles, picked off four passes and returned two for touchdowns. He almost single-handedly won a game in Atlanta, and was a big reason why the Chiefs went 12-4 and won their first AFC West title since 2010.

His performance while playing under the franchise tag earned him a $78 million, six-year contract this past offseason, making Berry the highest-paid safety in the league.

“I’m on a bit of a low right now,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “I love him to death. He’s our fearless leader, and to see him go down in the first game breaks your heart.”

The Chiefs are deep at safety, though. Eric Murray played well after Berry left the game, and Daniel Sorenson — who fulfills multiple roles in the defense — could also play the position.

The game Thursday night also gives the Chiefs some extra time to assess options before playing their home opener against Philadelphia on Sept. 17. Reid said he expected new general manager Brett Veach to scour the waiver wire and inquire about safeties outside the organization as well.

“Brett’s keeping his eyes open for things right now. That’s what he does,” Reid said. “He’s always on top of that. We’re just kind of seeing the different options there.”

CHIEFS OFFENSE EXPLODES — The Kansas City Chiefs surprised just about everyone with their season-opening win in New England, especially the reigning Super Bowl champs, who had their festive night celebrating another Lombardi Trophy spoiled by Alex Smith and Co.

Most surprising, though, was how the Chiefs sprung the upset.

The defending AFC West champions were expected to keep games close this season with their ferocious defense, led by pass rusher Justin Houston and Dee Ford. But it was an offense with Smith under center and youngsters such as Tyreek Hill and rooking running back Kareem Hunt that managed to out-duel Tom Brady and his star-studded supporting cast.

“You want to be multidimensional, right?” said Smith, who threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns in arguably his best game with the Chiefs. “You want to be well-rounded. I think that makes you tough to defend.”

The Chiefs were certainly well-rounded. And they were a nightmare to defend.

Smith became just the second quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the nearly two decades that Bill Belichick has been the Patriots’ coach. And it was the first 300-yard passing game by Smith in nearly two years.

Hunt, just the sixth running back to start an opener in franchise history, ran for 148 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 98 yards and two more scores. The third-round pick’s 246 yards from scrimmage were the most by a player in his first game in NFL history.

Hill had seven catches for 133 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown catch, in his first game as the Chiefs’ No. 1 wide receiver. His TD catch gave him five consecutive regular-season games with a play of 60 or more yards, the first player in NFL history to accomplish that feat.

Put that trio offensive together and it’s the first time since 2009 that the Chiefs have had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in the same game.

“It was a huge game for us. We wanted to start off on the right foot,” Hunt said. “The whole team played great, especially the offensive line. Those guys were making holes all night. I was able to find creases, and run hard behind those guys, especially after I started slow.

All the positives made up for a few imperfections.

Hunt fumbled on the Chiefs’ first offensive play, something he only did once during his entire college career at Toledo. The Chiefs had an unsightly 15 penalties for 139 yards. And their defense failed to force a turnover of its own, though they did make a couple of key stops on fourth down.



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