From Arrowhead Stadium
The first five games of his NFL career did not go the way Eric Berry had constructed in his dreams.
There were few chances to make big plays; there were many cases where he wasn’t quite sure about the defensive call or coverage. There were whispers around the league that he was doing a good job against the run, but he was struggling in coverage.
It all hit him like pin pricks. They didn’t draw any blood or leave lasting scars, but it hurt and he didn’t like it.
That’s what made Sunday’s victory over Jacksonville so special for the Chiefs first-round draft choice. In the fourth quarter, he grabbed the first interception of what he and the Chiefs hope is a long and successful career in red and gold.
“I knew what play was coming; I did a lot of studying,” Berry said of his pick of Jaguars QB Todd Bouman and then his 35-yard return. “I think the pass rush really helped that play out and forced him to throw the ball before he wanted too.”
Berry hopes the play is a turning point in this rookie season, and allows him to play the last 10 games like he always did at the University of Tennessee where for three years he was heavily involved in causing all sorts of big plays.
“It was getting used to the whole speed of the game, knowing what to expect from my opponent just getting back to playing football,” said Berry. “Sometimes I wasn’t fully comfortable with the calls or knowing what was going on. I had to put in overtime and really study my playbook, study the game plan and make sure I knew where to be at all times. I think that cut down on my thinking a lot and I was just out there reacting and playing football.”
In his 39 games with the Volunteers, Berry had 14 interceptions, three sacks, four recovered fumbles and two forced fumbles. That’s 23 big defensive plays over his college career. Coming into the sixth game of his NFL career, Berry was second on the Chiefs with 42 total tackles, but not a single big play via fumble, interception or sack.
That’s what led to some of the comments about Berry and his transition to the pro game.
“I always try to find something to motivate me and I had been hearing about making mistakes in the passing game,” Berry said. “That really has been motivating me. I just wanted to go out and help my team out and get a pick.”
Especially since the game had not gone quite the way Berry would have liked for himself. In the third quarter he was slapped with a pass interference call that was a 37-yard penalty. Five plays later, Bouman and Mike Sims-Walker connected on a nine-yard TD pass with the receiver beating Berry in the end zone.
Last week the Chiefs secondary had some calls go against them and Berry said they were intent on making sure there wasn’t a repeat.
“We saw how that affected us last week,” Berry said. “We got a pass interference and it snow balled into something bad. With the situation this week, we got the call but we didn’t let it snowball, we nipped it right in the bud. We went ahead and finished the game.”
There was another reason that Berry was excited about his first interception.
“I had my mom, my grandma and my auntie in the stands,” Berry said. “It was cool to do it at home.”