The Kansas City Chiefs notched their first playoff victory in my lifetime this past Saturday, and I still haven’t come down from that high. The Chiefs defense suffocated the Texans and forced Brian Hoyer into one of the worst games I’ve seen from a quarterback, a game that could likely end his career as a starter in the NFL. To say it was a good day for that vaunted KC defense would be an understatement.
Still, the job isn’t completely done. The Chiefs will head to Foxborough to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, looking to make a definitive statement and advance to the AFC Championship game. This matchup will be nothing like the Houston game; Tom Brady will not be made to look like Hoyer, and the Patriots have had far more success this season than the Texans. That being said, this is still a very winnable game for Kansas City – in fact, it’s one that I fully expect us to win decisively.
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The Chiefs are built to beat the Patriots, with their suffocating defense and an offense that–while not always explosive–can be effective. There is a lot of potential here for Kansas City to shock the world and make it to a Championship game after starting 1-5 in the regular season. To reach this potential though, the Chiefs will have to do a lot right–especially defensively–in an effort to keep this game winnable for a Chiefs offense that will likely be without their top receiver in Jeremy Maclin.
The Chiefs corners should do a good job against a Patriots WR Corps that’s just now pulling together after numerous injuries this season, and the Kansas City defensive front should do more than enough against a decimated Patriots line to rattle Tom Brady. Both of those matchups favor the Chiefs. The most important matchup for Kansas City, however, is a much more difficult one. The Chiefs must neutralize Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski. Stopping him is key to Kansas City continuing this insane season.
This is a task that will likely fall to the perfect person: Eric Berry. How fitting that a season filled with adversity–and inspired by one of the greatest comeback stories in recent memory–will come down to that comeback player being the key to a second playoff victory. Eric Berry and the rest of the Chiefs safeties must do all they can to prevent Rob Gronkowski from running wild over the Chiefs defense. This is no small task, but if anyone is up for the challenge, its going to be Berry. You can’t make this stuff up.
Think about that narrative for a minute; a year ago, Eric Berry was in the middle of cancer treatments. Now, he’s the top ranked player in the NFL at his position, a Pro Bowl safety, and the potential key to propelling his team to an AFC Championship game. The impossible can be made possible by this man on Saturday.
Sure, this is a tall order for any NFL player. The Chiefs are going to ask Berry to cover one of the greatest tight ends to ever play in the NFL, in a win-or-go-home playoff game that gives the winner a 50-50 shot at making the Super Bowl. The stakes are high, and the pressure is on. Plenty of lesser players could easily fold under all those expectations.
If I had to pick one player in the NFL who could rise to that challenge though, it’s – you guessed it – Eric Berry. Berry beat the odds: he beat cancer, he beat every other player at his position, hell, he even beat Peyton Manning this year. Saturday, Berry will get the opportunity to beat Gronk. If he does, the Chiefs will beat the Patriots.
I have to like his odds.