The Chiefs opened preseason action Saturday night on the road against the Arizona Cardinals with a welcomed face in the lineup.
Free safety Eric Berry didn’t start, but his presence on the field less than a year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma provided awe-inspiring moments as the Chiefs thumped the Cardinals, 34-19.
“It was great to have Eric back,” coach Andy Reid told reporters after the game. “He was fired up. He was out of control in the locker room before the game. He was just excited. He was just ready to go. I’m very happy for him.”
Berry entered the game late in the first quarter with the backups when the first-team defense left after one series.
And the occasion marked Berry’s first action since Nov. 20, 2014. Berry recorded a solo tackle in the first half before the Chiefs inserted the third-team defense.
“It was great being back out here,” Berry told reporters during his postgame media session. “Just the smell of the grass, the crowd, the food.
“I was just taking everything in, being in the locker room with my teammates and everything from greeting the security at the airport, I missed stuff like that. Just being able to do it and be out there with my teammates and having my mom on the sideline, that was just great.”
While Berry’s story is inspirational, the Chiefs’ first-team offense was the opposite.
The Chiefs starting offense failed to gain rhythm in three series of the first quarter, gaining 81 total yards and going 0-3 on third-down attempts.
“Offensively, we had a couple blown assignments there and you blow an assignment and things are going to happen negatively,” Reid said. “That’s kind of what happened there with the interception. We’ve got to make sure to tighten that up and get better.”
Quarterback Alex Smith completed 6-of-10 passes for 42 yards with no touchdowns and an interception before giving way to backup Chase Daniel to start the second quarter.
Running back Jamaal Charles didn’t record a carry on the game, and was replaced early in the first quarter by backup Knile Davis, who then left the game with a knee sprain following a 20-yard run.
Davis wasn’t the only injury the Chiefs dealt with in the first quarter, as right tackle Jeff Allen left after the first series with a knee injury and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas departed with a calf injury.
The Chiefs turned to tackle Donald Stephenson to replace Allen with the first-team offense, and second-year pro Charcandrick West filled in for Davis.
While the starters failed to gain any ground, the same couldn’t be said about Daniel and the second-team offense.
The Chiefs went the entire 2014 regular season without a wide receiver touchdown, and Daniel quickly connected with wide receivers Fred Williams and Frankie Hammond Jr., on scores.
Williams made the most of his six targets, hauling in six catches for 82 yards and 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter, while Hammond had two catches for 29 yards and a 14-yard touchdown.
Daniel finished the second quarter completing 13-of-16 passes for 145 yards and two scores, good enough for a 144.0 quarterback rating.
He gave way to Aaron Murray early in the third quarter, but not before connecting with rookie wide receiver Da’Ron Brown on a 3-yard touchdown pass, giving Daniel three touchdown passes and 189 yards passing on the night.
“We feel Chase is a top-caliber quarterback,” Reid said. “We’re fortunate to have Chase here. He has an opportunity there to work against younger guys like that and he’s going to look pretty doggone good. He took some hits, though, tonight and he hung in there. That’s what separates you a little bit. That’s quite a deal.”
West showed off his versatility, rushing six times for 49 yards and catching three passes for 43 yards.
The Chiefs return to training camp Monday in St. Joseph, Mo., and then break camp on Wednesday before hosting the Seattle Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday.
The Chiefs designated eight players, including two starters on defense as “not expected to play,” the preseason equivalent to the regular-season “inactive” listing.
Starting inside linebacker Josh Mauga (heel) and starting defensive tackle Dontari Poe (back) did not play.
Quarterback Tyler Bray (knee), wide receivers Junior Hemingway (hip) and Jeret Smith (hamstring), linebackers James-Michael Johnson (calf) and rookie D.J. Alexander (ankle), and offensive lineman Garrett Frye (knee) also did not play.
NOTES: Undrafted rookie defensive end David Irving, who measures 6-7, 272 pounds and has an 87 ¾-inch wingspan, blocked a field goal attempt … Cornerback Sean Smith, who will serve a three-game suspension to start the season, did not start the game. The Chiefs opened with a nickel package featuring cornerbacks Phillip Gaines at the nickel cornerbacks and rookie Marcus Peters and Jamell Fleming on the outside … Third-year center Eric Kush sustained a shoulder contusion … Rookie wide receiver Chris Conley dressed, but did not play.