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The (Monday) Morning After: A somber victory

NEED TO KNOW
  • The Chiefs played under a cloud of tragedy after starting LB Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself
  • Elsewhere, the Steelers edged out the Ravens; Cowboys win
In the aftermath of tragedy in the shooting death of Javon Belcher and his girlfriend, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Carolina Panthers.

Every week, the women at HerGameLife.com bring you the highlights, lowlights, and good fights from the weekend in pro football. HerGameLife is the premiere online destination for ladies who love sports, featuring football news from a female perspective, game day fashion and recipe ideas.

Chiefs 27, Panthers 21. From the shadow of unfathomable tragedy, the Kansas City Chiefs emerged with only their second win of the season. They did it against the Carolina Panthers. On Saturday, KC linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself to death. On Sunday, the Chiefs held a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence, then put together the most complete game of their dismal season. Cam Newton posted estimable numbers, throwing for 232 yards and three touchdowns, but the Panthers couldn’t quite match Brady Quinn and his clock-chewing second-half drives. The mood was hardly celebratory in front of a diminished and uncharacteristically muted fan base, but perhaps the win will provide consolation for a team reeling from a much bigger loss. – George Atkins @girlgeorge84

Texans 24, Titans 10. Playoffs or bust: That's how the Houston Texans approached their divisional game against the Tennessee Titans. The Texans improved to 11-1 for the season, clinching a playoff berth ahead of a tough matchup against the New England Patriots next Monday night. Despite QB Jake Locker's 309-yard game, the Titans shot themselves in the foot with penalties and six turnovers on the same day as they debuted new offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains. The Texans defense made a 180 from their shoddy play on Thanksgiving Day, and were led by defensive end J.J. Watt who broke the NFL record for sacks and pass breakups in a season. -- Morgan Gaskin @LetsGeauxMeaux

Steelers 23, Ravens 20. It was Round 2 in this AFC North showdown between the Ravens and Steelers and the gloves were off early in this game. Several times, players had to be separated but hey, that’s why we love a good rivalry. With Steelers’ Big Ben still sidelined, third-string quarterback Charlie Batch once again got the start, but he did way better than a week ago. Batch was responsible for 276 offensive yards and was 25 for 36 on pass completions. Pittsburgh’s Shaun Susiham kicked the game-winning field goal to give the black and gold its seventh win of the season. Baltimore will now have to wait one more week to clinch a spot in the postseason. -- Amanda McCall  @AmandaMcCall

Patriots 23, Dolphins 16. The Patriots clinched the AFC East title in what was otherwise a mediocre game for the boys in red, white and blue, who seemed to have a disproportionate number of fans in the Miami stadium. Ryan Tannehill looked like he could use a hug, as he threw several great deep balls with zero help by his receivers. A botched punt and a TD called back by a penalty added to the drowning of the Fish. Tom Terrific looked more like Tom Tepid, throwing one touchdown and one interception. No Patriots fan feels comfortable with kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who missed yet another field goal in his quest to set a regular season record for being non-clutch. Overall, a lazy game for a lazy Sunday. – Erica Blob

Cowboys 38, Eagles 33. Hold on, Cowboys fans, because the season is far from over. Dallas kept their slim playoff hopes alive as they defeated a struggling Eagles team to improve their record to 6-6. The return of star running back, Demarco Murray, certainly helped the Cowboys offense keep pace with their division rivals, who were leading until the third quarter. After being down 24-17, Tony Romo managed to tie the game with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin. The ‘Boys finally took their first lead of the night as Romo threw for another touchdown late in the fourth quarter to Dez Bryant. It was only fitting that the Dallas D helped put the game away as Morris Claiborne returned an Eagles fumble for, yes, another touchdown. --Sneha Bethi   @snehabethi

Colts 35, Lions 33. The stress of being a Detroit Lions fan was summed up by a last-second jog into the end zone by Indianapolis’ Donnie Avery. The Lions decided that they would play exceptional offense and defense until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The defense allowed two touchdown drives from Indy in the last four minutes of a game that had been won – at least almost. Andrew Luck did not have an awesome performance with three interceptions, four if you count one that was negated by a Detroit penalty. However, the NFL is a firm teacher of the motto: “It isn’t how you start, but how you finish.” Matthew Stafford started. Andrew Luck finished. -- Joye Pruitt @joyethewar

Jets 7, Cardinals 6. It was a battle of the bores offensively between the Jets and the Cardinals. Jets QB Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions in the first half, but that didn’t help Arizona rookie Ryan Lindley produce a scoring drive. After two missed Jets field goals, a fake punt woke the crowd with a gain of 40 yards for Arizona, putting them in a position to give life to the scoreboard seconds before halftime. The Jets benched Sanchez, opting for 3rd string Greg McElroy with Tim Tebow out nursing a rib injury. McElroy reminded fans where the end zone was with an immediate touchdown. Frustration mounted for the Cardinals as Lindley couldn’t connect on potential scoring opportunities. Arizona settled for another field goal, which wasn’t enough to end to their eight-game losing streak. – Krisi Fortner @red_sea_queen

Rams 16, 49ers 13.  It was almost a tie...again! But Rams rookie kicker Greg Zurelein was able to hit a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in overtime -- an overtime the 46ers effectively forced by giving up two scores in the last three minutes of regulation play. With quarterback Colin Kaepernick named starter this week over Alex Smith, San Francisco was unable to take advantage of great field position throughout the game. The defenses pounded it out and the 49ers lost, but still continue to lead the NFC West with an 8-3-1 record.  The Rams have had much success within their division (4-0-1), but unfortunately they are still 5-6-1 overall But, due to weak play in the NFC, they are still in the playoff hunt.  -- Lahari   @Lahari_S

Broncos 31, Bucs 23. Despite being down at halftime, the Broncos clinched the AFC West for the second straight season since 1986-87. Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns and orchestrated a 21-point third quarter in the win, the seventh in a row for Denver. A first-quarter field goal and touchdown by Dallas Clark, one of Manning’s former favorite targets, were the only scores that the Bucs would see until their failed fourth-quarter comeback attempt.  Balancing Manning’s almost flawless play, the Broncos defense effectively stopped Tampa’s offense by limiting RB Doug Martin, aka the Muscle Hamster, to just 56 yards rushing. The legend of Manning continues as he now holds the Broncos' single season record for touchdowns passes with 29, eclipsing John Elway and Jake Plummer. – Kayse Renfro

Bengals 20, Chargers 13.  The Chargers spent the last week hearing “Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice Up the Middle” after their embarrassing loss to the Ravens. They were definitely hoping to change the tune against a surging Bengals team. Fans were electrified early with an interception of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton that was returned for a touchdown. However, the Bengals ultimately rained on the Chargers' parade after two interceptions of Philip Rivers in the last four minutes of the game to weather the storm and capture their fourth straight win. The Chargers, however, have now dropped four games in a row and likely have cemented their chances for a new coach next season.  -- Valencia @ChocLadyBengal

Browns 20, Raiders 17. The Browns entered the stadium with a 12-game road losing streak to come face to face with the struggling Oakland Raiders. QB Carson Palmer threw for two touchdowns giving hope of breaking their own five-game losing streak. Their hope was quickly shut down as Palmer threw a fourth-quarter interception, killing a potential scoring drive and the dreams of Raider fans everywhere. The Raiders offered the perfect cure for the Browns’ ailing road losses, as the Browns led themselves to a (narrow) victory. Although both teams are out of the hunt for the postseason, at least the Browns gave something for the Dog Pound to bark about. -- Stacy Thereza @StacyCakezNFL

Packers 23, Vikings 14. As usual, this border battle was filled with interceptions, sacks, questionable calls, key penalties and missed field goals on both sides of the ball. Adrian Peterson rushed for more than 200 yards however that wasn't enough to overcome Christian Ponder's inability to complete more than one pass to a wide receiver. On the flip side, Aaron Rodgers celebrated his birthday by orchestrating the league's longest offensive drive of this season, eating up more than 11 minutes of the clock and eliminating any chance for the Vikings to stage a comeback. This was a key win for the Packers who make the move to the top of the NFC North after a Bears overtime loss to the Seahawks. -- Julie Kay @JKaybs

Bills 34, Jaguars 18. Push your calculator buttons, the Bills are not mathematically out of the playoffs just yet. Buffalo kept their postseason hopes alive, as they jammed their offensive weapons down Jacksonville’s throat. The Jaguars growled for a bit, leading with two minutes left in the first half, but Buffalo’s “Wildcat” Brad Smith and Fred Jackson added chunks of yardage. The Bills shifted the momentum like a fulcrum, Ryan Fitzpatrick gunning a touchdown pass to Scott Chandler. Buffalo dominated the second half, with Rian Lindell and C.J. Spiller pounding some point damage into Jacksonville’s flailing defense. While quarterback Chad Henne helped the Jaguars score a desperation touchdown, Buffalo’s defense stayed razor sharp.  Jairus Byrd’s late interception leaves the Jaguars to sharpen their teeth and search sadly for their third win of the season. -- Erica N @cuddle4butter

Seahawks 23, Bears 17. If you looked closely, you might have seen Seahawks QB Russell Wilson clicking his heels together before the game. There’s been “no place like home” for Seattle this season, as they are perfect at Centurylink despite just one win on the road. In the first half, it looked like history was set to repeat itself. Chicago came out strong, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive. In the fourth quarter, the brick road was not yellow, but Golden, as Seahawks WR Golden Tate scored what seemed to be the game-winning touchdown. However, Chicago came back in the final seconds tying the game, forcing overtime.  On the opening drive of OT, Wilson took the Seahawks 80 yards, eventually connecting with Sidney Rice for a touchdown to beat the Bears….oh my!   Jenny Goos @jennygoos

HGL Crystal Ball:

Giants vs. Redskins. Isn’t that always the way? You’re on your way to defending a Super Bowl title against your division rivals when their meanest wide receiver returns to form just in time for your second matchup, and all people are talking about is the backup QB on the Jets who isn’t even playing. On Monday night, Washington hosts a battle of quarterbacks between Eli Manning and rookie sensation RGIII, with supporting role honors likely going to the fantastically named Pierre Garcon, who sounds like he should be roaming the France pavilion at EPCOT rather than on the second-place team in the NFC.  Most importantly, please note that the Giants employ a Pierre as well, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is poised to wreak some havoc of his own. -- Mary Beth Ellis @blondechampagne

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