Tuesday September 13th, 2011

Everything Sam Bradford has been for the St. Louis Rams, everything that Ndamukong Suh has been for the Detroit Lions, Eric Berry has been for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs will be hard pressed to replace Eric Berry, their defensive anchor in 2010. (David Eulitt/Landov)

The No. 5 overall pick in last year's draft -- four spots after Bradford and three after Suh -- immediately made Kansas City a contender. He played every single defensive snap in 2010 and made the Pro Bowl as the Chiefs stunned everyone by going 10-6 and winning the AFC West.

Now, Kansas City faces the prospect of trying to repeat that success without Berry, who reportedly tore his ACL on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. That's on top of trying to figure out what went wrong in an embarrassing 41-7 Week 1 loss at home to Buffalo.

All 41 of those Bills points, for the record, came after Berry went down on just the third play from scrimmage.

Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick wound up throwing four TDs against the Berry-less Chiefs secondary. Next on the schedule for Kansas City is a trip to play Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and a talented Lions offense. Then, a visit to San Diego where Philip Rivers' lethal passing attack awaits.

Long story short, with 16 weeks left in the regular season, the Chiefs may be on the verge of taking a knockout punch.

Jon McGraw stepped into the lineup in Berry's place Sunday. McGraw is a 10-year veteran who's been with Kansas City since 2007 and has 27 career starts, but Berry, he is not. Sabby Piscitelli is Kansas City's other option currently -- he hasn't started a game since 2009.

And speaking of 2009, the Chiefs' putridity on defense was the main reason that they were in position to draft Berry in 2010 in the first place. That season, Kansas City gave up 26.5 points per game, 29th-worst in the NFL, and allowed nearly 400 yards per game.

Even if McGraw or Piscitelli or an unknown third options steps up and plays decently, you have to take into account what the loss of Berry does for the Chiefs mentally. It took him all of one season to become their heart and soul on defense. Now, after seeing Berry get hurt just three plays into his second year, the Chiefs have to wonder if they can survive without him.

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