The Chiefs went into Sunday’s home game against the Carolina Panthers with a grim weight to carry. It was only the day before that linebacker Jovan Belcher had shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before traveling to the Chiefs practice facility, thanking head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli for their help and faith in him… and then turning the gun on himself.
The murder happened in the presence of Perkins’ own mother, and the suicide happened in the presence of Crennel and Pioli.
Commissioner Roger Goodell put it on the team as to whether or not Sunday’s contest would be canceled. Team owner Clark Hunt passed along the decision to head coach Crennel, who passed it along to the team captains, who unanimously decided to go through with playing the game. It being a murder-suicide it’s almost impossible to pay any kind of tribute to Belcher, the suspect, and it would certainly be wrong to do so at the expense of Perkins’ memory. In reality this just one of those things that stands as nothing more than a pure tragedy through and through. Like the tragic death of former NFL star Steve McNair, there’s no silver lining here. Two people are dead for reasons still unknown to the public.
The Kansas City Chiefs decided that they were going to play football as planned, and you can bet that Sea of Red glistened a little bit more than usual. The Panthers have had a rough season, but their season wasn’t worse than Kansas City’s before the Belcher tragedy, and it certainly isn’t after the fact. The Chiefs, however, were simply not going to allow themselves to get eaten up by the tragic news. The beauty of sport is that, like life itself, it is unscripted. You never know what’s in store for you five minutes from now or 60 minutes from now. One quarter, two quarters, a season, a career, a lifetime… the immersive feeling of it all is found in the grandiose drama of it all. It’s bigger than you, it’s bigger than me.
The Chiefs went out there on Sunday and had something to prove. Much like the Indianapolis Colts breaking out and winning their first game without head coach Chuck Pagano (who had been diagnosed with leukemia in September), the Chiefs had something to prove, someone to honor, and a game to win.
The young Chiefs. The hapless Chiefs. The future holder of the #1 overall draft pick. Destined for failure, without much direction, and mired in extremely bad football. They went out there on Sunday and put a stake on their field. The Sea of Red at Arrowhead Stadium stood on its feet as it watched its beloved city institution defeat the Panthers 27-21.
The Panthers, who looked to be turning things around after last week’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles, met an impasse in Kansas City. What can you do when you’re up against a committed group of grown men absolutely determined to rise above? Chiefs QB Brady Quinn had one of the best games of his career, completing 19 of his 23 attempts and throwing for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns. Running back Jamaal Charles also showed up in full force, gaining 127 yards on 27 carries.
Kansas City only trailed in the 2nd quarter, but they would score on a 4th-down conversion with 2 seconds left in the half and would retain their lead for the remainder of the contest. The loss dropped the Panthers to 3-9 for dead last in the NFC South while increasing the Chiefs’ record to 2-10.
They might still end up being the worst team in the league, and they’ll be granted the first overall pick in next year’s draft as a result, and they’ll select USC quarterback Matt Barkley or whomever they see fit. Indeed, this team is young and there are brighter days ahead. Saturday was not one of them, but Sunday sure was. In this life of unscripted drama… tension, happiness, and sadness… the Kansas City Chiefs were not having it. They punched destiny in the face and they earned the win.