With a towel over his head, Eric Berry watched on from the sideline as third-year safety Jordan Lucas took over his spot and played alongside Daniel Sorensen for the Seahawks’ final possession of the Chiefs’ 38-31 loss Sunday.
In Berry’s absence, Seattle completed a couple of deep passes and scored one more time to push the game out of reach.
Down by only four points with four minutes to go when Berry came out, the Chiefs were without their best defensive player for the second week in a row during crucial moments late in the fourth quarter.
After sitting the second half against the Chargers — including during L.A.’s game-winning 2-point conversion — Berry exited Sunday’s game following Seattle’s penultimate drive with 7:31 to play.
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“You’ve got to go off of his feeling,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He hasn’t played in two years. I’m aware of that. I just, I don’t want to take any steps backward and neither does he. So we understand that. With the extended drives, snaps came out funny.
“He had every intention of going into the fourth quarter. It was just so many snaps he can take right now. He’s easing back into it. I have full trust in him. It’s not a matter. If he could’ve gone a half, we would’ve gone a half.”
Berry wound up playing in 69 of 80 defensive snaps Sunday — his highest since playing 70 in the 2017 season-opening win against the Patriots where he suffered the season-ending Achilles injury.
Berry didn’t have a hard cap to his snap limit, and Reid said the communication between the coaching staff and the safety was open throughout the game. It didn’t help that Seattle had possession the edge in time of possession 35:02 to the Chiefs’ 24:58.
“His numbers got up,” Reid said. “He was good right there. That was plenty. Again, just not taking anything back. And getting his legs back.
“There’s a lot to it. Not just that part of the injury, but getting his body back into playing.”
Though the Seahawks ran most plays away from Berry, the veteran had an undeniable influence on the game.
For rookie Charvarius Ward, Berry’s presence had a calming effect.
With Kendall Fuller out and Orlando Scandrick relegated to the sideline, the cornerback was making his first career start on the biggest of stages: Sunday Night Football. Primetime. A chance to clinch the No. 1 seed and home field advantage was on the line.
But for as anxious as he felt, Ward also felt like he was in good hands because Berry was playing with him.
“I was happy he was out there,” Ward said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be out there if he wasn’t. He helped me out a lot. He’s a coach on the field. He knows all their plays, all their routes. He was telling me all the signals because I didn’t know all the signals and stuff. So he helped out a lot.”
Though Berry was missing from the final minutes of the game, Ward said he felt confident enough in the defensive call to play without Berry. In fact, Ward didn’t notice he was missing.
“I didn’t know he was out, to be honest,” Ward said. “I was focused in on my man. We were running a lot of man, so I was focused in on my man really.”
The Chiefs will wrap up the regular season Sunday afternoon against Oakland with a No. 1 seed and an AFC West title on the line for a third consecutive week. Berry’s limitations for that game aren’t yet known, but he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.