If this were a typical week for the Kansas City Chiefs, coach Romeo Crennel, quarterback Brady Quinn, running back Peyton Hillis, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and other key members of the organization returning to Cleveland to face their former team would provide a surplus of storylines.
But this is anything but a typical week for the Chiefs as they try to cope in the aftermath of tragedy. Linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, the mother of the couple’s 3-month-old daughter, at their Kansas City home Saturday before fatally shooting himself in the parking lot of the team’s practice facility in front of Chiefs officials, including Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli.
The Chiefs played Sunday and won only their second game of the season, a 27-21 triumph over the Carolina Panthers at Arrowhead Stadium. Crennel and his players thought facing the Panthers would be therapeutic for the franchise. Still, the healing process remains in its infancy as the Chiefs (2-10) prepare for their road game Sunday against the Browns (4-8), who are coming off a 20-17 road win over the Oakland Raiders and have defeated four of their past seven opponents.
“Now our focus has to be and needs to be on facing an improving Cleveland Brown team on the road,” Crennel, who coached the Browns from 2005-08, said Monday during a news conference. “But we have to deal with the events of the last few days. It’s not over, and it might not be over for some of us for most of our lives.”
Adam Teicher covers the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star. He discussed the team in the following question-and-answer session:
Q: Can you characterize the mood of the Chiefs following the tragedy and the emotional win?
A: “It was a really good effort and no doubt an emotional win and all that. But what do they have left this week? I don’t know. To me, that’s the big issue in this game — what the Chiefs have left in the tank. They could go out to Cleveland — it’s a road game and you don’t have that home crowd going for you — and they could just be as flat as anything. I don’t know. No one knows. I think if it’s just down to football, I think the Chiefs have a chance to win on Sunday. But if their emotions are just flat, then who knows? They could get blown out again. They’ve been blown out in a bunch of games this year.”
Q: Is it fair to say the Chiefs felt like they weren’t able to enjoy the win because of the circumstances surrounding it?
A: “It just didn’t feel like a win to them. Brady Quinn had the most interesting thing to say after the game. He said it was hard to feel like you could win in this situation, and this was after they won. Clearly he wasn’t feeling it. So, yeah, it was just kind of a weird situation in that regard.”
Q: What have you learned about Crennel from the way he has handled the tragedy?
A: “I think one of the reasons the Chiefs hired him was that he was the same guy no matter what was going on around him, in good times and bad. [Former Chiefs coach] Todd Haley was all over the map and he was just so volatile and so up and down, and they thought that was really killing them. So they brought in a guy who was the same guy every single day. I’m not comparing the situation last year to the situation this weekend, but when [Crennel] came in last year as the interim coach, they just fired [Haley] and things were in disarray and they had the 13-0 [Green Bay] Packers coming into Arrowhead. Everybody thought it was going to be a blowout, and the Chiefs won the game. Crennel seems to be great during crisis times. That’s when he’s done his best work for the Chiefs. He did it in that Green Bay game last year and then again when all this was going on this year. That’s one thing you know about him that maybe this game confirmed is that the guy during crisis times, he’s just a rock. He holds everything together for you. Maybe the other times he’s not such a good coach for you. I don’t know. [The record] would lead you to believe that. So that’s kind of the one thing that you sort of suspected about Crennel, but now it’s really been confirmed. During crisis, you want that guy on your side.”
Q: The Chiefs have obviously had a disappointing season on the field, but is there a sense of the community rallying around them now?
A: “Yeah, there’s no doubt about that. I think more people probably showed up for the game the other day just because they wanted to support the Chiefs. It wasn’t a huge crowd. But I think it would have been even a smaller crowd had this not happened here. I do know for a fact we’ve had stories where some fans have said, ‘We just showed up because we felt like we needed to support the Chiefs right now.’ ”
Q: As the Chiefs try to return to some sense of normalcy Sunday, what will be the keys to the game for them?
A: “The emotional part that we talked about, just put that aside for a minute. They’ve got to run the ball. That’s what they do. Quinn’s probably not good enough to carry the load. They’ve got to run the ball. They’ve done a really good job with that most of the year. They started off great this year running the ball, hit a little bit of slump and then got back to it. Everything they do goes off that. They can’t turn it over. They were turning it over at an incredible rate. They’ve slowed it down. Last week was the first game they didn’t have a turnover all year, and had they been turning it over, they would have lost that game. They can’t be turning it over. This team is not good enough to overcome that.”
Read Adam Teicher’s coverage of the Chiefs: www.kansascity.com/sports. Follow him on Twitter: @adamteicher. Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.