The Kansas City Chiefs came together in a time of great tragedy to get their second win of the season with a 27-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. With many wondering if it was even appropriate to play the game just a day after Jovan Belcher allegedly murdered his girlfriend and then shot himself in front of the team’s facility, the Chiefs were able to start the healing process by scoring three touchdowns on their way to a narrow victory.
Grieving will continue for this struggling team as they try to come to grips with an inexplicable tragedy, but football offers a distraction and a chance to return to normality. The team played the game with heavy hearts and minds, which makes getting a victory that much more remarkable.
Given the set of circumstances it would have been easy and even understandable if the Chiefs played unfocused football, but instead they played their best football of the season. The Chiefs didn’t incur a penalty until the final drive, and they didn’t turn the ball over or even let a live ball hit the ground.
For whatever reason the Chiefs found the formula of sustained success on a difficult and emotional day. It’s a formula that could serve them well over the final four weeks. If the Chiefs can replicate their success and parlay it into two or three wins over the final four weeks, it could make Clark Hunt’s decision to fire Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli more difficult.
Crennel and Pioli witnessed something horrible on Saturday, and they held the team together and found a way to win. Given the set of circumstances, it might be interesting to see what the Chiefs could do with the same coaches and competent quarterback play.
Brady Quinn was that competent quarterback for the Chiefs on Sunday—he completed 19 of his 23 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Quinn made very few mistakes, got Dwayne Bowe involved early and targeted tight end Tony Moeaki in the red zone. Quinn also took some chances by throwing deep and was able to find Jon Baldwin for a long gain on the first drive.
The passing game was set up by the superb running game, and at one point running back Jamaal Charles had five carries for 49 yards. Charles finished with 27 carries for 127 yards, an average of 4.7 yards per carry, which helped the Chiefs build a 24-14 lead. The Chiefs had 11-, 13- and 17-play scoring drives that burned between nearly 24 minutes off the clock.
This game serves as proof that this team can win by playing clean football and getting above-average quarterback play. They haven’t gotten that much this season, but they did on Sunday and will try to replicate that over the final four weeks.
The Chiefs possessed the ball for over 37 minutes, scored touchdowns on every trip to the red zone, converted on three fourth-down attempts and converted 42 percent of their third-down attempts. When offense ran into trouble in the fourth quarter, the defense finally showed up forced punts on back-to-back drives.
It was a complete team victory, and owner Clark Hunt appropriately gave the game ball to the entire team. If the Chiefs can continue to play mistake-free football and continue to find the right mix on offense to put points on the board, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Chiefs could win a few more games before the season's end.