It’s a situation no group of co-workers should ever have to deal with, no matter the occupation. But it has to be even more difficult when you are on a national stage, trying to grieve for a man you thought you knew so well.
There were the Kansas City Chiefs, trying to play a football game roughly 24 hours after teammate Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself in front of GM Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. Owner Clark Hunt wasn’t sure how his team would play once kickoff arrived, but he knew the players and coaches would rally around each other.
Rally they did.
Despite the heavy hearts and mounting injuries, the Chiefs played their most crisp game of the season to defeat Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, 27-21. Any implications of such a win on Kansas City’s potential draft pick or future of Pioli and Crennel weren’t on anyone’s mind. Instead, it was about players, coaches and the community as a whole coming together to celebrate instead of cry, even if just for a few hours.
Offense, defense and special teams all did their part in what truly was a team win. It’s that kind of effort, under impossible circumstances, that make it a pleasure to hand out game balls to the best of the best from Arrowhead on Sunday.
Offense: Brady Quinn
You could easily hand this to Jamaal Charles (138 yards from scrimmage), Tony Moeaki (four catches, TD) Jon Baldwin (game-winning TD) but Quinn gets the nod for directing the offense flawlessly all game and representing the team even better after the game.
Quinn finished with 201 yards on 19-for-23 passing, including two touchdowns against no interceptions. He also showed an uncharacteristic awareness in the pocket, only being sacked once as the Chiefs finally showed they could put together sustained drives, including their first touchdown on an opening possession in two years.
His future with the franchise is understood to be non-existent, but Quinn handled the offense and the responsibility that comes with being the face of the team in post-game interviews better than anyone could have ever imagined.
Defense: Tyson Jackson
The Chiefs defense lost one key player after another, but it was Jackson that kept getting after Newton. Along with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, Jackson kept the Panthers QB on his toes, as he ran for 78 yards, but paid for it with countless hits.
In his fourth season with the Chiefs, it appears the former No. 3 overall pick is starting to come into his own. On Sunday he finished with five tackles, a sack, tackle for a loss and pass defensed.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
A season of consistency continued on Sunday for Succop. He nailed two more field goals, including a 52-yarder, and three extra points to account for nine of the Chiefs 27 points.
Succop now has the third-most field goals in franchise history and owns the highest conversion rate (83.2%). He’s had multiple field goals in eight games and has only missed three kicks all season.