KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a game fueled by adrenaline and heavy hearts in the wake of unimaginable tragedy, the Kansas City Chiefs prevailed, defeating the Carolina Panthers 27-21 on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs (2-10, 1-6 home) won thanks in large part to a heroic effort by running back Jamaal Charles, who rushed for 127 yards. The defense came up with several clutch stops late in the game, and fought through a plethora of in-game injuries to help seal the team’s first home win of the season.
On Saturday morning, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before driving to Arrowhead’s practice facility, where he then took his own life in front of Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli.
Despite speculation that Sunday’s game would be cancelled, Chiefs team captains and personnel elected to play the game as scheduled. Moments before the game, the Chiefs asked the crowd at Arrowhead to hold a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence.
Kansas City opened up the game with a 74-yard touchdown drive, their first opening drive TD in over two years. RB Peyton Hillis gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead after punching it in from the two-yard line.
The Panthers (3-9, 2-4 away) answered with a 75-yd TD drive to tie the game at 7-7. Quarterback Cam Newton hooked up with tight end Greg Olsen for a 47-yd TD pass. Kicker Ryan Succop responded with a 42-yd field goal to give the Chiefs a 10-7 lead, but it wouldn’t last long.
Newton found wide receiver Steve Smith for a 23-yd TD pass to give the Panthers a 14-10 lead with 13:27 to play in the second quarter.
The Chiefs closed the first half with a 13-play 80-yd drive that spanned seven and a half minutes. On fourth and one, QB Brady Quinn threw a one-yard TD pass to TE Tony Moeaki as time expired, and the Chiefs took a 17-14 lead into halftime.
Quinn led Kansas City on a 17-play 87-yd drive that spanned 10 minutes on their first possession of the second half. A three-yard TD pass from Quinn to WR Jon Baldwin gave the Chiefs a 24-14 lead with 2:52 to play in the third quarter.
The Chiefs played an exceptionally clean game on both sides of the ball, as they finished with zero turnovers and just one penalty. Another key to victory was the Chiefs’ ability to sustain long drives, because Newton and the Panthers’ quick-strike capabilities were most definitely on display. Newton hit WR Louis Murphy for an eight-yard TD pass with 13:21 to play in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 24-21.
Succop came up clutch once again with a 52-yd FG to give the Chiefs a 27-21 lead with 4:54 to play. Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston and a stout defensive line kept the Panthers at bay in the fourth quarter, and a depleted Chiefs secondary did just enough to secure the emotional win.
The Chiefs hit the road for a showdown with the Cleveland Browns next Sunday afternoon.