KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There’s no telling how the Kansas City Chiefs would have finished in 2016 without either Eric Berry or Tyreek Hill, but it’s clear they wouldn’t have gone 12-4 or captured their first AFC West championship since 2010. They probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all.
That’s how strong Berry and Hill were for the Chiefs. Berry, the do-everything safety, made several big plays to help deliver victories to the Chiefs in close games. Hill, the rookie receiver and kickoff returner, led Kansas City with 12 total touchdowns. None of his teammates had more than five.
The Chiefs are scheduled to announce on Sunday their 2016 most valuable player and rookie of the year. When it comes to MVP, the choices occasionally surprise, so it wouldn’t be a total upset if quarterback Alex Smith, tight end Travis Kelce or cornerback Marcus Peters won or shared the award.
But Berry and Hill are the most deserving choices. If either one wins, justice is done.
Berry is my pick. The Chiefs wouldn’t have won the division title without his knack for fourth-quarter big plays. His interception and spectacular return for a touchdown – Berry successfully completed two spin moves on his way to the end zone – ignited a late comeback in a November game against the Panthers. His interception and score on an Atlanta two-point conversion try in the final minutes gave the Chiefs the necessary points to take a 29-28 victory over the Falcons in December.
These and other big plays – between interceptions and forced fumbles, Berry had five takeaways, tied for second on the team behind only Peters – were in addition to his usual, steady, down-by-down presence.
Hill exceeded Berry in spectacular plays. Of his 12 touchdowns, eight were from longer than 34 yards, providing a much-needed boost to an offense that often struggled to put together long drives or score points. Hill had all three Chiefs touchdowns – one on a rush, one on a pass reception and one on a kick return – in a crucial November victory over the Denver Broncos, the final score coming with 12 seconds left. That touchdown, paired with the two-point conversion, sent the game into overtime, and the Chiefs won with two field goals.
Strictly going by on-field contributions, Hill deserves to win. But there’s an off-the-field component that Berry provides, one that neither Hill nor any of his teammates can match. Berry, a cancer survivor, is not only an inspiration in the locker room, but he’s the Chiefs’ voice of reason. When he talks, his teammates listen. Where he leads, his teammates follow.
Even if he’s not the MVP, Hill won’t be going home empty-handed. He’s overwhelmingly the leading candidate to be the Chiefs’ rookie of the year. Defensive lineman Chris Jones would have been a good choice in a normal year, but not in a season when Hill also debuted.
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