Belcher’s locker was left with his jersey hanging on a hook.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family and our entire organization,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt told The Associated Press on the field before the game. “We have so many guys on our team and our coaching staff who are really, really hurting.”
The emotions were raw even after the kickoff.
Kansas City took the opening possession and marched 74 yards in just six plays, including a 21-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe and a 34-yarder to Baldwin that got the Chiefs to the 2.
Hillis powered in to score the first touchdown for Kansas City on the opening possession of a game since Dec. 26, 2010. It was also the first touchdown drive engineered by Quinn since December 2009, when he helped the Browns beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Hillis ran to the sideline after scoring his first touchdown of the season and handed the ball to Crennel, then gave the affable head coach a big bear hug.
The Panthers answered with a long touchdown drive. The big play came when safety Abe Elam watched Olsen haul in a 47-yard pass from Newton for the tying touchdown.
The Chiefs had tacked on a field goal when the Panthers struck again, this time after Newton completed three passes to convert third downs, the last of them finding Smith in the end zone.
But Kansas City finished off the half with one of its best drives of the year, an 80-yard march that took up the final 7:25. Hillis was stuffed at the line on third-and-goal, and Crennel allowed the clock to hit 2 seconds before calling timeout. On the final play of the half, Quinn saw Moeaki open in the back of the end zone and delivered a soft toss for a 17-14 lead.
Breathing room came late in the third quarter when the Chiefs used 17 plays to go 87 yards on a drive that lasted another 10 minutes. Quinn finished it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin.
Carolina mounted a comeback with the opening drive of the fourth quarter, with Newton hitting Murphy on a quick slant route from the 8 to get the Panther within a field goal.
The Chiefs added their own field goal, and then labored through the final minutes before pouring on the field, hugging each other and then kneeling in prayer around the midfield logo.
“In moments, tragedies like this, they can define you or redefine you,” Quinn said, “and I think this team took an event and allowed it to redefine us. We were battling through a lot of emotions, a lot of difficulty on the field, and guys stepped up and played a heck of a game.”