1:00 PM ET, December 2, 2012
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
It has been one challenge after another this season for the NFL-worst Kansas City Chiefs.
Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers, however, will no doubt be their most difficult.
Just over 24 hours after linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and killing himself, Kansas City will host the Panthers as it attempts to avoid matching the longest losing streak in team history.
Belcher murdered 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, the mother of their 3-month-old daughter, then went to Arrowhead and committed suicide in front of Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel, thanking them for all they'd done before turning the gun on himself. Authorities did not release a motive for the murder-suicide.
"The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened by today's events, and our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families and friends affected by this unthinkable tragedy," Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement.
There were questions if the game would go on as scheduled, but the team announced Saturday afternoon it would play "after discussions between the league office, Head Coach Romeo Crennel and Chiefs team captains."
Crennel is planning to be on the sideline Sunday despite witnessing the suicide of Belcher, who had started 10 of the team's 11 games.
The embattled coach now faces the difficult job of keeping his players in the right frame of mind as they try to avoid joining the 1987 and 2007 Chiefs as the only teams in franchise history to lose nine straight games.
Kansas City (1-10) has struggled offensively and defensively during its skid, averaging 10.4 points in the past seven contests and giving up at least 26 points five times over the eight-game slide.
The Chiefs rank last in the league with 32 giveaways and 94 red-zone points. They fell to 0-6 at home with a 17-9 loss to Denver on Sunday, managing just 264 yards.
"This is a result-driven business we're in and ... when you don't get results, you don't feel good about it," Crennel told the team's official website.
"Everybody is frustrated about losing -- players, coaches, fans, owners, everybody. What we want or what we need is, we need to try to win a game to make us feel better, give us a little confidence and then if you win one, then maybe we can win another one."
The Chiefs, giving up 126.1 rushing yards per contest, could catch a break with Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart uncertain to play after suffering a high ankle sprain in Monday's 30-22 victory over Philadelphia. Carolina, which also lost defensive tackle Ron Edwards to a season-ending dislocated left elbow in that game, is expected to give DeAngelo Williams his first start since Week 5 if Stewart can't go.
Carolina (3-8) is all but certain to end up with a losing record for the third straight year despite optimistic preseason predictions to the contrary, though it has split its last four games. Cam Newton, who has struggled in 2012 after an outstanding rookie season, threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles while rushing for 52 yards and two scores.
"Winning is huge. It cures all," coach Ron Rivera told the team's official website. "We've got to continue now. We have to take this momentum we have on a short week into Kansas City."
The Panthers -- scoring 19.5 points per game to rank 25th in the NFL after averaging 25.4 last year -- posted their second-highest point total of the season. Newton could be in for another big day against a Chiefs defense that's surrendered 22 passing touchdowns.
Newton threw five TDs and eight interceptions during Carolina's 1-6 start but has recorded six and two as the Panthers have split their last four games.
"People are throwing different things at him now," Rivera said of Newton, whose 20 rushing TDs since the start of last season are second most in the league. "They're trying to throw things that have worked against him at him, and he's learning those things and understanding them."
The Panthers, seeking a third straight win in this series, took the last matchup 34-0 on Oct. 5, 2008, behind 123 rushing yards and two scores from Williams.
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• Pound the rock: Carolina should be one of the more dominating running teams in the NFL with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams sharing the load. In spite of having those two talented runners, the Panthers are led by quarterback Cam Newton with 446 rushing yards. Even though Stewart missed some time in Monday night's win over the Eagles, the Panthers need their backs to take some of the pressure off Newton and move the chains on the ground.
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|Avg Points Allowed||24.3||26.8|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CAR|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CAR|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Carolina leads 2-1|
|Oct 5, 2008||CAR 34, KC 0|
|Sep 19, 2004||CAR 28, @KC 17|