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.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to ESPN's Cristian Moreno. Ventura was 25 years old.
Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners.
Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014.
Ventura is the second major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.
A quick look at the information you need to know about tonight's Patriots-Steelers game:
- Tom E. Curran's game preview
- Fire alarm pulled at Steelers' hotel at 3:40 a.m.
- Brady to fans, teammates, friends: I'm playing today for you
TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 15-2, Steelers 13- 5
GAME TIME: 6:40 p.m. EST
TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson
NATIONAL RADIO NETWORKS: Westwood One
NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts and Ross Tucker
LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)
LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak
ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Steelers lead, 15-14
LAST MEETING: Patriots 27, Steelers 16 on Oct. 23, 2016 at Heinz Field
* * * *
-- Bill Belichick is coaching in his NFL-record 11th conference championship game. Tom Brady is playing in his NFL-record 11th conference championship game.
-- The Patriots are 8-4 in AFC Championship Games, including 5-1 in games played in Foxboro and 4-1 at Gillette Stadium.
-- The Patriots are 30-19 in postseason games, including 19-4 at home (3-1 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, 16-3 at Gillette).
-- The Patriots' 30 postseason victories are tied with the 49ers for fourth-most in NFL history, behind the Cowboys (34), Steelers (34) and Packers (32).
-- The Patriots' .612 winning percentage in postseason games is third-best in NFL history, behind the Ravens (15-8, .652) and Packers (34-21, .618).
* * * *
-- If the Patriots win today they will qualify for their ninth Super Bowl, most in NFL history. They are currently tied with the Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers at eight.
-- If the Patriots win today, Robert Kraft will set an NFL record for most conference championships by an owner (8) in the Super Bowl era. He is currently tied with the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowler at seven.
-- If the Patriots win today, Bill Belichick will move into a tie with Bill Walsh for third place on the NFL list of best postseason coaching winning percentage. Belichick (who would be 25-10 with a victory) and Walsh (10-4) would have .714 winning percentage. Belichick is currently in fifth place, two percentage points behind Joe Gibbs (17-7, .708). Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) is in first place and Tom Flores (8-3. .727) is second.
-- If the Patriots win today, Belichick will advance to his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, which would be most in NFL history. He is currently tied with Don Shula at six.
-- Tom Brady (8) needs one more playoff game with three or more touchdown passes to tie Joe Montana (9) for most three-plus TD playoff games since the 1970 NFL merger.
-- Stephen Gostkowski (142) needs 11 points to tie Gary Anderson for third place on the NFL's all-time list of kicking points in the postseason. Adam Vinatieri (234) is first and David Akers (175) is second.
-- Julian Edelman (76) needs nine receptions to tie Andre Reed (85) for sixth place on the NFL's all-time list of postseason receptions. Michael Irvin is fifth at 88, and Hines Ward and Wes Welker are tied for third at 88.
* * * *
-- REFEREE: Terry McAulay. UMPIRE: Rich Hall. HEAD LINESMAN: Wayne Mackie. LINE JUDGE: Mark Perlman. FIELD JUDGE: Scott Edwards. SIDE JUDGE: Boris Cheek. BACK JUDGE: Tony Steratore. ALTERNATES: John Parry, Mark Steinkerchner, Rich Martinez. REPLAY OFFICIAL: Mike Wimmer. SUPERVISOR: Gary Slaughter.