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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 turn 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."
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. 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 TD run for Kansas City, 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. Chiefs 27, Panthers 21
Carolina 7 7 0 7 21
Kansas City 10 7 7 3 27
KC • Hillis 2 run (Succop kick), 11:49.
Car • Olsen 47 pass from Newton (Gano kick), 8:46.
KC • FG Succop 42, 3:20.
Car • Smith 23 pass from Newton (Gano kick), 13:27.
KC • Moeaki 1 pass from Quinn (Succop kick), :00.
KC • Baldwin 3 pass from Quinn (Succop kick), 2:52.
Car • Murphy 8 pass from Newton (Gano kick), 13:21.
KC • FG Succop 52, 4:54.
Attendance • 62,860.
First downs 19 23
Total Net Yards 385 355
Rushes-yards 22-165 43-158
Passing 220 197
Punt Returns 1-12 1-6
Kickoff Returns 2-41 1-31
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 -0
Comp-Att-Int 15-27-0 19-23-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-12 1-4
Punts 4-46.0 3-42.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 7-45 1-5
Time of Possession 22:47 37:13
Rushing • Carolina, Newton 7-78, D.Williams 12-67, Tolbert 2-15, Adams 1-5. Kansas City, Charles 27-127, Hillis 12-19, Quinn 3-12, McCluster 1-0.
Passing • Carolina, Newton 15-27-0-232. Kansas City, Quinn 19-23-0-201.
Receiving • Carolina, Smith 5-120, Tolbert 3-24, LaFell 2-14, Olsen 1-47, A.Edwards 1-11, Murphy 1-8, Adams 1-7, D.Williams 1-1. Kansas City, Bowe 4-64, Moeaki 4-54, Charles 4-11, Baldwin 2-37, McCluster 2-16, Hillis 1-9, Gray 1-6, Newsome 1-4.