Members of the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers pray together following an NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City

Chiefs get emotional win one day after tragedy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Romeo Crennel stood in the middle of the Kansas City Chiefs’ locker-room Sunday, the emotion threatening to overcome the good-natured coach.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Romeo Crennel stood in the middle of the Kansas City Chiefs’ locker-room Sunday, the emotion threatening to overcome the good-natured coach.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt was at his side, offering support. Members of the team hugged each other, the mud smearing with tears on their cheeks. And over along the wall stood the empty locker that once belonged to Jovan Belcher, his jersey still hanging from a hook.

Just one day after the linebacker killed his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself, the Chiefs banded together to play their finest game of the season, an inspired 27-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers that ended an eight-game losing streak suddenly rendered trivial.

“As far as playing the game, I thought that was the best for us to do, because that’s what we do,” Crennel said, tears forming in the corners of his eyes. “We’re football players and football coaches and that’s what we do. We play on Sunday.”

According to authorities, Belcher shot his girlfriend multiple times early Saturday at a residence near Arrowhead Stadium, then sped to the team’s practice facility and turned the gun on himself as Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli watched in the parking lot.

Pioli walked through the press box before the game and said he was doing “OK.”

“It’s been an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family and our entire organization,” Hunt said.

“We have so many guys on our team and our coaching staff who are really, really hurting.”

Chiefs players gathered in the tunnel leading to the field for a brief prayer before their pre-game stretching.

A few fans in the half-empty stadium held up signs referencing the shootings, and there was a moment of silence to remember all victims of domestic violence.

Kansas City police have not released a motive for the shootings, claimed the life of Belcher and 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, and left a 3-month-old girl, Zoey, an orphan.

“I’m just trying to get through the rest of today,” said the Chiefs’ Brady Quinn, who threw his first two touchdown passes in three years.

“The emotions of what has taken place will probably hit home for a few guys the next few days, when they realize what’s taken place.”

Cam Newton threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers (3-9).

The Panthers were informed the game would be played as scheduled while they were heading to Kansas City on Saturday.

DeAngelo Williams added 67 yards rushing, carrying the load with Jonathan Stewart out with an injury. Steve Smith, Greg Olsen and Louis Murphy caught Carolina’s TD passes.

“You definitely feel for them. What they are going through is tragic,” Olsen said. “But we have a job to do. Our job is to come here and prepare to win. They wouldn’t expect any less.”

Peyton Hillis had a touchdown run for Kansas City (2-10), while Tony Moeaki and Jon Baldwin had touchdown catches. Ryan Succop hit a pair of field goals, including a 52-yarder with 4:54 left that forced the Panthers try for a touchdown to steal the win.

Instead, they went three-and-out, and the Chiefs were able to run the clock down to 31 seconds before giving back the ball. Newton completed two quick passes to reach the Carolina 38, but his final heave as time expired was caught by Smith short of the end zone.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera greeted Crennel at midfield and gave him a hug.

“They played an inspired football game,” Rivera said. “They did some really good things, and we have to give them credit, because they suffered through a very difficult time.”

The emotions were raw even after the kickoff.

Kansas City took the opening possession and marched 74 yards in just six plays, including a 21-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe and a 34-yarder to Baldwin that got the Chiefs to the Carolina 2.

Hillis powered in to score the first touchdown for Kansas City on the opening possession of a game since Dec. 26, 2010. It was also the first touchdown drive engineered by Quinn since December 2009, when he helped the Browns beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

Hillis ran to the sideline after scoring his first touchdown of the season and handed the ball to Crennel, then gave the guy who managed to hold the team together a hug.

The Panthers answered with a long touchdown drive of their own. The big play came when safety Abe Elam watched Olsen haul in a 47-yard pass from Newton for the tying touchdown.

The Chiefs had tacked on a field goal when the Panthers struck again, this time after Newton completed three passes to convert third downs, the last finding Smith in the end zone.

But Kansas City finished off the half with one of its best drives of the year, an 80-yard march that took up the final 7:25. Hillis was stuffed at the line on third-and-goal, and Crennel allowed the clock to hit 2 seconds before calling timeout. On the final play of the half, Quinn saw Moeaki open in the back of the end zone and delivered a soft toss for a 17-14 lead.

Breathing room came late in the third quarter when the Chiefs used 17 plays to go 87 yards on a drive that lasted another 10 minutes. Quinn finished it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin.

Carolina mounted a comeback with the opening drive of the fourth quarter, with Newton hitting Murphy on a quick slant route from the 8 to get the Panthers within a field goal. But the Chiefs added their own field goal, and then burned enough of the clock to ensure the victory.

One that allowed the Chiefs to celebrate in the midst of their mourning.

Just Posted

Truck crashes into Red Deer pub

Driver arrested and faces charges

Diesel spilled in Penhold neighbourhood

Penhold Fire Department responded

Red Deer woman dies in head-on collision

Coronation RCMP investigate

Rebels drop home opener to Oil Kings

The Edmonton Oil Kings were simply better than the Red Deer Rebels… Continue reading

House fire in Penhold

Damage estimated at $30,000

RDC Kings topple Medicine Hat College Rattlers

Kings Matheus Alves scores twice in the win

The Latest: Cosby judge weighs hearing on ‘predator’ status

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The Latest on Bill Cosby’s sentencing hearing (all times… Continue reading

Mystery around disappearance of Chinese star Fan Bingbing

BEIJING — X-Men star Fan Bingbing’s Beijing management office is dark and… Continue reading

Will Smith bungee jump is latest stunt near Grand Canyon

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — At the end of the 1991 movie “Thelma &… Continue reading

Score! Scrabble dictionary adds ‘OK,’ ‘ew’ to official play

NEW YORK — Scrabble players, time to rethink your game because 300… Continue reading

Actor James Woods bashes Twitter after getting locked out

MINNEAPOLIS — Actor James Woods has been locked out of his Twitter… Continue reading

Mandela: A life of soaring symbolism, now harnessed by UN

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela’s South African journey from anti-apartheid leader to prisoner… Continue reading

The Latest: UN leader calls drug problem ‘alarming’

CAMEROON, Cameroon — The Latest on the United Nations General Assembly (all… Continue reading

Trudeau arrives at United Nations, hoping to re-establish Canada on world stage

UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived at the… Continue reading

Most Read