A day after linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend then himself, his former teammates rallied to secure a 27-21 win over Carolina, while elsewhere titles and playoff berths were clinched on a dramatic day in the NFL
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs end losing streak with win after Belcher death
A day after the shocking suicide of linebacker Jovan Belcher, who also shot and killed his girlfriend, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Carolina Panthers 27-21 in front of a subdued crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.
The victory ended an eight-game losing streak, but there was little mood of celebration for a team coming to terms with yesterday's tragic events.
Belcher, 25, had shot his girlfriend multiple times before driving to the team's practice facility where he killed himself in front of Romeo Crennel, team coach, and Scott Pioli, the Chiefs' general manager.
Hours after the incident, the Chiefs players and coaches made the decision that today's game would go ahead.
When it did, Brady Quinn threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and Jamaal Charles collected 127 yards on the ground to lead the Chiefs to an emotional victory.
Cam Newton led Carolina by throwing for 232 yards and three touchdowns.
"You overcame a lot, you stuck together as a team like we talked about - helped each other - family and friends, you relied on those people or you relied on your faith to help get you through this," he told his players after the game.
"And we got through it — in a grand way because everyone made a contribution, everybody helped. And that's what a team is about."
The Cincinnati Bengals won their fourth successive game with a 20-13 win at the free-falling San Diego Chargers to move into playoff contention.
The Chargers have now lost seven of their last eight games, leaving the future of their much criticised head coach Norv Turner looking bleak and their fans once again venting their frustration at the end of the game.
The game was over when, with the Chargers on a fourth and 10 on the Bengals 17-yard line, quarterback Philip Rivers' throw into the end zone was intercepted by Reggie Nelson.
We are obviously in the hunt for this thing," said Dalton after the game.
"We know the end goal but you can't look too far ahead. We have to come out and play our best next week."
The Pittsburgh Steelers overcame the absence of Ben Roethlisberger to stun the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 and keep alive their once-unthinkable hopes of an AFC North Division title.
Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired, enabling the Steelers to snap a two-game losing streak and halt Baltimore's 15-game regular season winning streak at home.
The Steelers (7-5), behind veteran back-up quarterback Charlie Batch, drove 61 yards over the final 6:14 to set up Suisham's field goal, his third of the game."
Big necessary win for us tonight in a hostile environment," Mike Tomlin, the Pittsburgh coach, said after the game.
"It was a tough physical and mental battle and we persevered."
Tony Romo came out all guns blazing during a second half shootout as the Dallas Cowboys beat the crumbling Philadelphia Eagles 38-33 on Sunday to keep their playoff hopes intact.
Romo tossed all three of his touchdown passes in the final two quarters, where both teams traded scores, finding Dez Bryant on a six-yard score with 5:35 remaining to give the Cowboys a 31-27 lead and their first advantage of the game.
The result was all but sealed when Philadelphia running back Bryce Brown then fumbled and Dallas' Morris Claiborne returned it 50 yards to make it 38-27.
The Eagles closed the gap with Damaris Johnson's 98-yard punt return TD in the final minute, but their onside kickoff attempt failed.
Peyton Manning had three touchdown passes for the Denver Broncos as they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to clinch their division title for the second consecutive year.
Manning went 27-for-38 with 242 yards and an interception and moved past Dan Marino into second place all-time for completions with 4,986 to his name.
Demaryius Thomas finished with eight catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns, while Knowshon Moreno had 69 yards on 20 carries and added four catches for 14 yards for Denver.
Quarterback Josh Freeman went 18-for-39 with 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Buccaneers who have lost two straight.
Mike Williams and Dallas Clark each caught a touchdown pass in the loss.
The New England Patriots clinched the AFC East title with a 23-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins but it was far from a polished performance.
Dolphins penalties accounted for most of New England's scoring as Tom Brady had an off-day, and Miami also had a touchdown chalked off as they proved their own worst enemy.
Brady threw for 238 yards, but was sacked four times and tossed an interception.
It was a sixth straight win for the Patriots, who moved to 9-3.
The Houston Texans secured their play-off berth with a 24-10 win over the Tennessee Titans.
The defence was the key as rookie linebacker Whitney Mercilus had two sacks and a fumble recovery, and the Texans forced six turnovers.
Their 11 wins this season is a franchise record.
Morgan Burnett twice intercepted Christian Ponder in what proved pivotal moments as the Green Bay Packers saw off the Minnesota Vikings 23-14.
The Vikings were inspired by Adrian Peterson, who returned to the kind of form he used to show before blowing out his knee a year ago by rushing for 210 yards.
But it was all for nought as Ponder tossed costly picks that Green Bay turned into points.
It was a vital win for the Packers (8-4) in the NFC North title race as they caught the Chicago Bears, 23-17 losers in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks in the Windy City.
Russell Wilson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice in overtime to take the win.
Robbie Gould had kicked a field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime.
Andrew Luck's 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery as time expired capped a dramatic comeback for the Indianapolis Colts as they beat the Detroit Lions 35-33.
The Lions had led by 12 in the fourth quarter but the Colts came storming back to stay in control of the AFC wild-card race.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 112 yards and two touchdowns as the Buffalo Bills stayed alive, if barely, in the playoff race with a 34-18 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The New York Jets' third-string quarterback Greg McElroy did just enough to lead his side to an attritional 7-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
With Mark Sanchez struggling and Tim Tebow ailing, it was McElroy who stepped off the bench in the third quarter and led the Jets downfield before throwing to Jeff Cumberland for a one-yard touchdown.
Sanchez had gone 10-of-27 for 91 yards with three interceptions before being pulled.
Greg Zuerlein booted a 54-yard field goal 26 seconds from the end of overtime as the St Louis Rams edged the San Francisco 49ers 16-13.
Zuerlein's 53-yard kick had forced overtime at the end of the fourth quarter.
The overtime kick meant the two teams narrowly avoided a second tie in three weeks.
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