From Comcast SportsNetKANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- 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."Chiefs players gathered in the tunnel leading to the field for a brief prayer before their pregame stretching. A few fans in the half-empty stadium held up signs referencing the shootings, and there was a moment of silence to remember all victims of domestic violence.Kansas City police have not released a motive for the shootings, which claimed the life of Belcher and 22-year-old Kasandra M. 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."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 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. 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.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.Hillis ran to the sideline after scoring his first touchdown of the season and handed the ball to Crennel, then gave the guy who managed to hold the team together a hug.The Panthers answered with a long touchdown drive of their own. The big play came when safety Abe Elam watched Olsen haul in a 47-yard pass from Newton for the tying touchdown.The Chiefs had tacked on a field goal when the Panthers struck again, this time after Newton completed three passes to convert third downs, the last finding Smith in the end zone.But Kansas City finished off the half with one of its best drives of the year, an 80-yard march that took up the final 7:25. Hillis was stuffed at the line on third-and-goal, and Crennel allowed the clock to hit 2 seconds before calling timeout. On the final play of the half, Quinn saw Moeaki open in the back of the end zone and delivered a soft toss for a 17-14 lead.Breathing room came late in the third quarter when the Chiefs used 17 plays to go 87 yards on a drive that lasted another 10 minutes. Quinn finished it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin.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."NOTES:Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers (hamstring), S Abe Elam (left leg) and LB Derrick Johnson (left hamstring) left the game with injuries. Carolina lost LB James Anderson (eye), Murphy (foot) and S Sherrod Martin (right knee) during the game. ... Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe caught four passes to move into third place in franchise history with 413 catches. ... Carolina has attempted 11 FGs this season.
What predictions did Tom E. Curran get right for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game? Find out in his preview review.
LeGarrette Blount's performance at Heinz Field was an ironic one because the 24 carries he received in New England's 27-16 win over Pittsburgh was more than twice the number of carries he got during his busiest days as a member of the Steelers in 2014.
Blount signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2014, believing he would be a significant part of the organization's plans. He found out relatively quickly that he was not -- not as long as Le'Veon Bell was in town and running well, at least. He averaged just six carries in his 11 games with the Steelers, and he was cut after he walked off the sidelines, frustrated by his lack of playing time, before a Monday night win over the Titans was over.
The Patriots quickly moved to sign Blount, and the match between player and organization has been a fit ever since. There are days where the football is in quarterback Tom Brady's hands for long stretches, and there are days where Blount is leaned on.
"As a running back, you always want the football," he said. "If we have 80 plays, you're going to want 80 carries. You just gotta be patient. When the opportunity presents itself, you just gotta make the most of it."
Sunday presented Blount with his share of opportunities and he capitalized. He ran for 127 yards (a 5.3 yards-per-carry average) and two scores against the Steelers, helping keep an aggressive defense at bay, and punishing his former coach Mike Tomlin for flooding the field with defensive backs when Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett were on the field.
"LG ran hard," Bill Belichick said. "Good ball-security. Good pad level. Made some tough yards, and he made a couple big-play, kind of explosive runs . . . He gave us some explosive plays, and we needed that, particularly when they cut it to a four-point game."
The Steelers made it a four-point game with a field goal before halftime, and then they made it a one-point game when they got another Chris Boswell kick to make the score, 14-13. That's when New England's 250-pound back came up large.
He ripped off gains of 11 yards, then 25 yards. Three plays later, Gronkowski was in the end zone on a 36-yard strike from Tom Brady.
"I thought we ran the ball great on that drive," Brady said. "We really got a hat on a hat and it gave LeGarrette some space to run. He's just so deceptive with his quickness. He's a big back but he's got great agility. He makes yards after contact. He gets guys in space and does a great job attacking the creases there. He had a great day today."
Belichick said those long carries helped "settle" things down as it kept the Steelers pass-rush on its heels when the Patriots were pressing to extend their lead.
"He gave us a couple of big runs there to . . . settle things down where it wasn't just a pass-rush game for them all day," Belichick said. "They had some good pressure early in the third quarter, kind of got us in some long-yardage situations. Holding penalties. Hit the quarterback. Forced the ball out quick. So his runs were able to settle us down. I thought our offensive line came through with some good blocking, as well as our receivers and the tight ends, obviously. We ran behind Marty and Rob a lot."
Through seven games, Blount already has a career-high for rushing touchdowns with eight. He's on pace to find the end zone 18 times, which would best Curtis Martin's franchise record of 14 scores in a single season.
"We went in there with a game plan," Blount said. "We stuck to it, and we came out with a win."