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Associated Press
Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn, center, gestures after a touchdown pass during the first half against Carolina on Sunday in Kansas City, Mo.

At somber Arrowhead, mourning Chiefs get win

– 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 turn the gun on himself as Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli watched in the parking lot.

Kansas City police have not released a motive for the shootings, which claimed the life of Belcher and 22-year-old Kasandra 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), who 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.

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.

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.

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.

“There were pockets in the game where reality hits you again, and that’s sobering,” said Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker. “I’ve been telling people, Jovan was like a brother to us. His family was family to us. Our hearts go out to them, man, and the game maybe took our heads off it for a while – it brought us closer as a team today, I think – but it’s never going to be easy.”

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