Published December 10, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Returning to normal for the Kansas City Chiefs is equal parts welcoming and frustrating.
The players, coaches and front-office staff may never truly get over the murder-suicide involving teammate Jovan Belcher, which shook the franchise to its very core last week. But they've now played two games since their world was sent spinning, and getting back to normal means finally moving on from a tragic set of circumstances.
That's the good news, of course.
The bad news is that normal for the Chiefs generally means losing.
Kansas City played an inspired game the day following the tragedy, beating the Carolina Panthers to end an eight-game losing streak. But the Chiefs struggled as much as they have all season on Sunday in Cleveland, when they scored a touchdown on the game's opening play and then watched the Browns pile up 30 unanswered points in a rout.
The loss dropped the Chiefs to 2-11 on the season, and leaves them still searching for one more victory to avoid matching the 2008 team for the fewest wins since the late 1970s.
"I'm disappointed because it's one I would have liked to have won, for no other reason than I used to coach there," coach Romeo Crennel said. "But we didn't win it. Guys tried. We had several guys who were banged up and were productive in their play, but still not enough to get it done."
Yes, guys getting banged up. That's something else that's quite normal for Kansas City.
The latest in a long series of injuries this season may prove to be the most crippling: Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has been ruled out for Sunday's game against Oakland with hurt ribs, and Crennel said Bowe could miss the rest of the year.
He was undergoing an MRI exam and other tests Monday to detail the extent of the injury.
"He represents some dependability to our offense, playmaking ability," Crennel said. "Now with him being out, we have to rely on other guys to step up and make plays for us, so we can generate some offense."
The offense struggled mightily when Bowe went out after the first quarter. The Chiefs didn't manage to score again the rest of the game, despite Jamaal Charles having another big game on the ground. Kansas City's wide receiver corps failed to get open and quarterback Brady Quinn, who was at his best against Carolina, couldn't get anybody the ball.
"We had a lack of consistency in all our drives," said right tackle Eric Winston, pointing out that penalties and missed assignments contributed to several ending prematurely. "We weren't able to consistently keep drives going."
Bowe is once again leading the Chiefs with 59 catches for 801 yards and three touchdown catches, and remains the only viable deep threat with former first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin struggling to contribute on offense.
Bowe is also playing this season on a $9.5 million, one-year deal after getting the franchise tag last season. He decided to skip most of training camp before signing his tender, and there are some who believe the Chiefs won't put the tag on him again — perhaps instead using it on left tackle Branden Albert.
That means, depending on the severity of Bowe's injury, he may have played his final game in a Chiefs uniform.
"We've lost one of the top receivers in the league," Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki said. "We have to step up at the skill positions to make up for his production."
The Chiefs have several other injury woes heading into Sunday's game at Oakland.
Albert remains hampered by a back injury that flared up in Cleveland, and Crennel said he's not sure whether the big left tackle will be able to play. Safeties Abe Elam (hamstring) and Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) are also trying to recover from injuries, and running back Cyrus Gray sustained a stinger against the Browns and never returned to the game.
Crennel said he's focused on picking up wins down the stretch, even though the Chiefs are in position for the first overall pick in the NFL draft. And even though he'd never acknowledge it, Crennel knows that his job could be on the line — along with that of general manager Scott Pioli — once the season comes to an end.
After playing the Raiders, Kansas City finishes up at home against Indianapolis and at Denver.
"We've just got to keep finding ways to get better," safety Tysyn Hartman said. "I mean, that's what today's all about, getting in and watching film and watching the game, and then getting on to next week."