Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (21) fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) in the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Denver. Kansas City recovered the ball on the play. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:00 pm
Chiefs' 38-3 loss secures top pick in '13 draft
By PAT GRAHAMAP Sports Writer
As soon as Monday, he may find out whether he was saying goodbye for the last time.
The Chiefs coach said he has no idea what lies ahead, nor does he have any meetings scheduled with management after Kansas City closed a dismal season with a 38-3 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Should this be his last game in charge, it certainly wasn't the performance Crennel had in mind.
"Probably the worst game of the year," Crennel said.
And that's saying something in a season that went horribly wrong for the Chiefs (2-14). Injuries and ineffective play derailed a team predicted to finish near the top of the AFC West before the season. They also faced adversity off the field as well, when Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend before committing suicide at the team's practice facility on Dec. 1.
"I think the season finally caught up to these guys and I think it showed on the field," Crennel said.
The Chiefs do have this as a consolation prize: top pick in the 2013 draft. However, it's not exactly a draft rich in quarterbacks like last year, when Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the top two selections and highlighted a gifted group of incoming rookies.
It's definitely an area of need after the Chiefs rotated in Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn throughout the year.
Against an eager Denver defense, Quinn struggled as he completed just 7 of 16 passes for 49 yards against his former team.
Whether Crennel is back with the team remains up in the air. His players sure hope so.
"That's my guy. Everybody knows that," defensive lineman Shaun Smith said. "That's not only my coach, that's my role model. My father figure. We don't just talk football, we talk life."
Asked to make a case to retain his job, Crennel simply shrugged.
"Just depends on what your criteria is," he said. "If your criteria is wins and losses, there's not much defense. If the criteria is trying to keep the team together and play young guys and make some improvement with those guys, then a defense can be made.
"That's not for me to judge. That's not for me to say. The people making the decisions, they'll decide that."
Throughout the game, Crennel gingerly moved along the sideline with the use of a crutch after having his knee drained of fluid last week.
His offense didn't move much better as the Broncos (13-3) earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs with the win.
A year ago, Crennel led the Chiefs to a surprise win in Denver to close out the season, a victory that ultimately bolstered Crennel's bid to become head coach.
This time, the loss simply leaves his future in doubt.
"I told him (after the game), `It's been a long one. Sorry it didn't turn out the way (we wanted). I have faith in you and that's all that matters,'" Smith said. "Hopefully, things get better."
The Chiefs do have talent, with five players voted to the Pro Bowl. It's the same number as the Broncos, who won their 11th straight game and head into the playoffs with plenty of momentum.
The difference was very glaring to everyone: Denver has Peyton Manning. The Chiefs have Quinn, who couldn't move ahead of Tim Tebow on the Broncos' depth chart last season.
Manning tossed three touchdowns passes in a game for the 73rd time in his career, surpassing the record held by Brett Favre.
Oh, and he also saved a score, too.
When Brandon Flowers scooped up Ronnie Hillman's fumble, he had clear sailing in front of him - except for Manning, who threw himself in the way just long enough so that Flowers was caught from behind by tight end Joel Dreessen.
The Chiefs couldn't get it into the end zone and had to settle for a short field goal from Ryan Succop.
Then again, the red zone hasn't exactly been kind to the Chiefs, who rank last this season with their production inside the 20.
Kansas City had a chance to cut into the lead early in the second quarter, but Succop missed a 33-yard field goal.
From there, it was all Denver as Manning methodically drove the Broncos downfield time and time again. His receivers made one circus catch after another, too, with Manning fitting passes into the tiniest of windows.
"We faced a surgeon today," Crennel said.
Manning finished with 304 yards, giving him 4,659 for the season as he set a new franchise record, surpassing the mark of 4,526 Jay Cutler set in 2008.
And it's not like the Chiefs secondary played shoddy football, either. They had good coverage most of the time.
Take Demaryius Thomas' 13-yard score in the third quarter. The Chiefs had Thomas well-blanketed, but the big receiver jumped up in the back of the end zone and snared it out of the air with one hand.
"Peyton required them to come down with some passes where only a receiver can get it and they came down with them," Flowers said.
Simply that kind of day for Denver.
And that kind of season for the Chiefs.
"Words can't describe how frustrating it is," Flowers said. "It's unacceptable, embarrassing, everything."
Notes: The Chiefs had as many first downs (8) as punts. ... RB Jamaal Charles finished with 53 yards to give him 1,509. "I feel like it's a big year for me, especially coming off my knee surgery and especially trying to come back and (show people) that I am the Jamaal I was before," Charles said.
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