Extra Points: Chiefs persevere in difficult circumstances
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - It's always hard to judge someone's grieving process.
All of us handle the simplest things in life differently so why do so many of us think there is some kind of handbook for handling tragedy?
To the dismay of many, the game went on in Kansas City Sunday and the Chiefs were able to get the best of the Carolina Panthers, 27-21, in the wake of Jovan Belcher's unspeakable actions a day earlier.
Belcher, of course, killed himself at the team's training facility, minutes after allegedly murdering his 22-year-old girlfriend Kasandra Perkins.
"It's tough to get over what happened," Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki said. "It's tough not to think about it. For most of the game, we were able to focus on the task at hand. It was nice to not have that hanging over our heads."
There was some speculation that Sunday's game might be postponed, at least for a day or two, but Kansas City chose to proceed after the team's six captains informed coach Romeo Crennel that they wanted to play.
"I can't speak for everyone else, but when coach Crennel called me as a captain on the team and asked me, I just spoke from experience, and when I lost my dad in 2008 during the middle of the season, I welcomed the healthy distraction of being out there and being able to practice," benched Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel said. "I told him I thought it would be a good thing to get out on the field and play and be with our teammates and our family members here and deal with it together."
Crennel and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli actually witnessed Belcher's suicide according to police, who believe the fourth-year pro shot his girlfriend multiple times after the two had argued at home.
Both men and other members of the Chiefs' staff tried to settle Belcher down but police had already been alerted, and when they arrived on the scene, the Long Island native took his own life, leaving his 3-month-old daughter an orphan.
"I think first and foremost as a person, it's just been devastating, the tragedy of yesterday," Cassel said. "Not only losing a teammate, but also knowing that there was a 22 year-old woman involved and there's a three-month old kid that's not going to grow up knowing her mom and dad and how tragic that really is."
Kansas City Mayor Sly James described what the Chiefs went through as the worst situation he can imagine.
"You have absolutely no idea of what it's like to see somebody kill themselves," James told the Kansas City Star. "If you can take your worst nightmare and put somebody you know and love into that situation, and give them a gun and stand three feet away from them and watch them kill themselves, that's what it is like. It's unfathomable. Think about your worst nightmare and multiply it by five."
The NFL could have stepped in and moved Sunday's contest to Monday or Tuesday. And since neither team has a realistic shot at the postseason, cancellation was even broached by those who don't understand logistics or professional sports.
But what would that really accomplish?
The league smartly put the decision into the hands of the Chiefs and their leaders, who stepped up under unprecedented circumstances and made the best choice they could for the franchise.
None of that makes it right or wrong -- it is what it is.
"This isn't something that we have in our response booklet," James correctly surmised.
The Chiefs also had to wrestle with how they would remember Belcher, a universally liked member of the locker room before his unconscionable acts on Saturday.
A helmet decal or uniform patch was obviously out of the question so the franchise decided on a moment of silence on Sunday for all victims of domestic violence.
"There's really nothing you can do to prepare for this," Chiefs owner and CEO Clark Hunt said.
On the field Hunt didn't know what to expect.
"I know they'll be about their battling for each other," Hunt remarked before the kickoff, "but beyond that I really can't say (what to expect)."
The Chiefs, who came in at a dismal 1-10, did battle and somehow avoided matching the longest losing streak in franchise history when Brady Quinn threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
"I think we all have heavy hearts today, and while it was a great victory, I'm really proud of how the team came together and how we responded and played," Cassel said. "We all had heavy hearts when we walked in here today. There were some guys who were tearing up. I think we really know how tragic this event has been."
Jamaal Charles, who had to be playing with the heaviest of hearts, carried the load for K.C., rushing for 127 yards as the Chiefs avoided joining the 1987 and 2007 Kansas City teams, who each lost nine straight times.
Perkins was the cousin of Charles' wife and the couple introduced her to Belcher, who Charles was very close with.
"He's a freak," Moeaki said of Charles. "I like blocking for him. It seems like if you can get in front of your guy for one second, then it's too late for the defense. It is awesome having him on the team."
Always remember but life and football moves on.
"I want to remind everybody that it involved two families," Crennel said. "We're grieving for all involved. It's tough when circumstances happen that you can't undo, so you have to rely on each other, rely on your family, your friends and your faith.
"That's what, as a team, we tried to do today, try to work our way through the tragedy, knowing that it's not over today, it will still go on the next day and the next day. But life is going to go on as well, so we have to work through it. That's what we're going to try to do."
THE MONDAY REWIND:
When you think about walkoffs, your mind probably wanders to Miguel Cabrera taking some jabronie deep over the wall at Comerica Park.
The NFL, however, had its share of walkoff wins highlighting Week 13.
In the Motor City, it was the visiting Andrew Luck playing the role of Cabrera and finding Donnie Avery for a 14-yard touchdown on the final play of the game as the Indianapolis Colts shocked the Lions, 35-33, at Ford Field.
The 8-4 Colts were down by 12 points late in the game, but put together two straight scoring drives that Luck capped with touchdown passes to help the team win for a sixth time in the past seven games.
The rookie star finished the game 24-for-54 for 391 yards with four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Avery caught two of the scores, while LaVon Brazill and Coby Fleener also each posted a touchdown pass in the win.
"Some teams find a way to win, others don't," said Indianapolis interim head coach Bruce Arians. "Today our guys did and I couldn't be prouder of them. This was a big team win and everyone took part in it. This was a big win on the road against a quality opponent."
Luck was hardly the only late-game hero on Sunday, however. Over in Chicago Sidney Rice's 13-yard touchdown catch in overtime lifted the Seattle Seahawks over the Bears, 23-17. Meanwhile, in St. Louis it was Legatron who proved to be the difference.
Rice, who finished with six catches for 99 yards for the 7-5 Seahawks, took a monster hit from Chicago safety Major Wright while crossing the goal line. The veteran receiver lost the football but it was after he had already reached the end zone and the score was upheld, giving Seattle just its second road win of 2012.
"We're very fortunate to get out of here with a win against a terrific football team. We needed it badly and we're excited to go back home and finish this thing off," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We needed to get a couple wins on the road and at least we got one so far."
In St. Louis, for the second time in three weeks the Rams and 49ers battled past regulation in a hard-fought NFC West battle. But unlike their Week 10 meeting, Sunday's eerily similar tilt ended with a winner, as Greg Zuerlein connected on a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining in OT to give the Rams a 16-13 victory at Edward Jones Dome.
Both Zuerlein and David Akers missed field goals in overtime during a 17-17 tie three weeks ago. Akers was off the mark again in the rematch, narrowly pushing a 51-yard try wide right with 4:11 remaining in the extra session.
The Rams gained one first down after the miss, and on 4th-and-inches from the San Francisco 37-yard line, Zuerlein, who also banged-in a 53-yard FG to tie the game at the end of regulation, answered the call to give the Rams their second straight win and the rookie's seventh make of 50-plus yards this year.
"We found a way to win," Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. "We're a young team that's starting to learn how to win tough games."
Three AFC heavyweights took care of business on Sunday and one did not.
The conference-leading Houston Texans netted their second consecutive playoff berth, while the Patriots and Broncos locked down their respective divisions. Baltimore, however, missed out on a golden opportunity to punch its ticket to the dance.
The conference-leading Texans set a franchise record with their 11th win of the season and clinched their second straight playoff appearance with a dominating 24-10 win over the Tennessee Titans. Matt Schaub completed 21-of-35 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns while the Houston defense forced three interceptions and recovered three fumbles.
"It's amazing. Last year we clinched and the players were euphoric, this year they expect to get there," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said.
It was far from easy for New England, who managed to wrap up the East with a 23-16 win over the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Tom Brady's rhythm was disrupted by a spirited Miami defense, but the Patriots capitalized on several miscues to earn the victory.
Brady was 24-of-40 for 238 yards with one touchdown pass to Wes Welker and a rare interception. Stevan Ridley scored on a short touchdown run and picked up critical yards on a fourth-quarter drive to help New England prevail and capture the division crown for the 10th time in 12 years.
Welker had 103 yards on 12 grabs, tying Jerry Rice's NFL record for most games with 10-plus receptions at 17, while Brady became the first starting quarterback in NFL history with 10 division crowns, surpassing the great Joe Montana, who finished with nine.
"We accomplished one of our goals this year, to be in the postseason," said New England coach Bill Belichick, who picked up his 201st career win, tying him with Dan Reeves for seventh place all-time. "That's good, but more importantly we just got to keep working to get better."
Finally Peyton Manning put the punctuation on the AFC West, throwing three touchdown passes as the Broncos clinched the AFC West title with a 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Manning went 27-for-38 with 242 yards and an interception as the Broncos, who won their seventh straight game and clinched their division for the second straight year and 12th time in franchise history.
"The main goal coming into today was to get the win," said Manning. "We knew we were facing a hot team today and that we were going to have our hands full. That being said, it feels really good to win the division and we'll continue to improve as we head to the playoffs."
Baltimore also figured to be popping champagne corks on Sunday since all that stood between its 16th consecutive home win and a playoff berth was Steelers third-string quarterback Charlie Batch.
Batch -- making his second straight start in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich -- was able to chew up the final 6:14 of game clock with a 12-play, 61-yard march that culminated in a Shaun Suisham 42-yard game-winning kick in a 23-20 Pittsburgh win.
Batch finished 25-of-36 passing for 276 yards and a touchdown with one interception for the Steelers, who bounced back from an eight-turnover performance in a 20-14 loss to Cleveland last weekend.
"I don't worry about last week. Last week is what it was," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin remarked. "Would've, should've, could've is not in our business. (Batch) did the job tonight along with his comrades and that is what is important as I stand here."
Atlanta, meanwhile, was the first NFC team to reach the postseason, doing its part by topping New Orleans 23-13 last Thursday and then clinching the NFC South when the Bucs lost in Denver.
ANOTHER SHOE DROPS IN PHILLY
Scapegoats are en vogue in Philadelphia.
First it was Juan Castillo, then it was Jason Babin and now its Babin's position coach Jim Washburn.
The Eagles defensive line coach was fired on Monday morning, hours after the team suffered its latest humiliating defeat at Dallas.
Washburn was in his second season in the position and a hard-headed awful fit, a proponent of the wide-9 scheme which virtually ignores the running game in favor of heavy pass rush principles, an untenable thought process for a club with little talent at linebacker.
He will be replaced by veteran coach and Andy Reid confidant Tommy Brasher.
"Jim is a fine football coach and we appreciate the efforts he gave to this team over the past two years," Reid said in a statement Monday. "However, I determined that it was in the team's best interest that we move in a different direction in terms of trying to maximize the production of that position group. We look forward to having Tommy Brasher back on board to work with the defensive line."
Brasher was the Eagles' defensive line coach in 1985 and held the same job from 1999-2005.
The Eagles, who have lost eight straight for the first time since opening the 1968 campaign at 0-11, tied for the league lead with 50 sacks last season, but have only 20 in 12 games this year -- 27th in the league.
Babin, a Washburn favorite who had 18 sacks in 2011 before being released last week, could have been the impetus for the move.
Washburn was reportedly very upset when Babin was jettisoned, believing the Western Michigan product was being used as an excuse for the deficiencies on the defense.
The Eagles defense has gone into a tailspin as a whole since Todd Bowles replaced Castillo as defensive coordinator in October.
-Luck and Russell Wilson became the first pair of rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to each throw a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of regulation or overtime on the same day.
Wilson in fact has now thrown a game-winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime three times, the most ever by a rookie since the 1970 merger.
-Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson had 13 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown in the Lions' loss to Indianapolis, becoming the first player in NFL history with four consecutive 140-plus receiving yard games in a single season. Johnson also tied the NFL record set by Pat Studstill in 1966 with his fifth consecutive game with at least 125 receiving yards.
-Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings' 23-14 loss at Green Bay. Peterson now has 8,198 career rushing yards and reached 8,000 yards in his 85th game. He is one of only seven players in NFL history to reach 8,000 career rushing yards in 85 games or fewer.
Peterson also has three career 200-yard rushing games. Only six players in NFL history have more, O.J. Simpson (six), Tiki Barber (five) and Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson (four).
-San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith had one sack in the 49ers' overtime loss at St. Louis giving him 31 1/2 sacks in his first 2 seasons, which passes Reggie White's previous NFL record of 31.
12/03 11:37:15 ET