Cleveland — There was no emotional carry-over or win for the Chiefs. Only a letdown.
One week after Kansas City’s players bonded in grief following a teammate’s death, the Chiefs were clobbered, 30-7, on Sunday by the Cleveland Browns, who extended their longest winning streak since 2009 to three games.
Running back Jamaal Charles scored on an 80-yard touchdown run on the opening play. But other than that moment, it was more of the same for the Chiefs (2-11), still reeling from the tragedy involving linebacker Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend before committing suicide at the team’s practice facility.
“It’s been a long week,” linebacker Tamba Hali said. “Guys just wanted to come out and stack wins, back to back. Jamaal, when he broke that first one, we were excited. But we have to keep that up throughout the game.”
Rookie Travis Benjamin’s electrifying 93-yard punt return touchdown early in the second quarter swung momentum in Cleveland’s favor and the Browns (5-8) continued their resurgence under second-year coach Pat Shurmur, whose future in Cleveland remains uncertain. With three games left, the Browns, who opened this season 0-5, have surpassed their win total from last season and have their longest winning streak since 2009.
“It’s all kind of coming together,” said 14-year veteran kicker Phil Dawson, who booted three field goals.
For one week, the Chiefs felt the same way.
Charles ran for 165 yards, breaking off his 80-yarder on the first snap as Kansas City, playing its road game since Belcher’s suicide. The 25-year-old killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their home before driving to the team’s practice facility on Dec. 1 and taking his life.
Rookie Trent Richardson’s second 1-yard TD early in the fourth quarter gave the Browns a 27-7 lead and finally put away the Chiefs, who had somehow pulled tighter and won at over Carolina, less than one day after Belcher’s unspeakable act.
Coach Romeo Crennel rallied his team through the difficult ordeal, but it may have been too much to expect the Chiefs to repeat last week’s performance. Their practice schedule was adjusted during the week to attend a service for Belcher, and the days of reflection and sorrow may have taken a toll.
“It is going to be with some guys the rest of their lives,” quarterback Brady Quinn said. “It’s something I think we will carry with us the rest of the season, but it’s not a distraction. We’re doing our best to move forward. Football and the fact that these guys love to play the game is a great outlet or a great way to get our minds off of it.”
Charles returned after sustaining a rib injury knocked him out one series. Kansas City, though, lost leading receiver Dwayne Bowe, who injured his ribs in the first half and didn’t come back.