New England, Denver, Houston and Atlanta make playoffs

Sun Dec 2, 2012 8:47pm EST
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By Julian Linden

(Reuters) - Battling their grief as much as their opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs scored a rare win in the National Football League (NFL) on Sunday, just 24 hours after one of the darkest days in American sport.

With the country still in shock after Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend then committed suicide, the struggling Chiefs (2-10) kept their emotions in check to beat the Carolina Panthers (3-9) 27-21 at Arrowhead Stadium.

"We do have a lot of guys who are really hurting," the struggling team's chief executive officer Clark Hunt told the NFL Network.

"I told them 'There's not a lot I can say to you other than we're family and we have got to pull together right now and support each other.'"

The game added a somber touch to one of the toughest leagues in the world. The NFL is no place for the faint-hearted and on most days, the only thing that matters is the win-loss column.

The New England Patriots, the Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos all won on Sunday to book their spots in the playoffs with four weeks to spare.

The Atlanta Falcons also advanced to the postseason, leaving eight places up for grabs, when they clinched the NFC South Division after they won on Thursday and Tampa Bay lost on Sunday.

The Baltimore Ravens (9-3) missed their first chance to qualify when they were beaten 23-20 by their AFC North division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5).   Continued...