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NFL Sunday Recap: Tragedy Strikes in Kansas City

Jovan Belcher Jamie Squire/Getty Images

So, as of Friday night, here's how our Week 13 Recap was going to start:

With just a month until the playoffs, its hard to believe the most dramatic moment of Week 13 was between two teams that won't be in them, the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs, who have 19 combined losses. Coming into Sunday, the Panthers had lost every single one of their pre-game coin flips plus a coin flip before an overtime. That's 12 lost flips in 11 games!  Of course, a coin flip is just luck, and the only team in the NFL more unlucky than the Panthers this year is probably the Chiefs.

Yeah, so that was Friday, back when dumb stuff mattered.

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Tragedy in KC: Saturday morning, as football fans began a day of big college games, news emerged from Kansas City that starting linebacker Jovan Belcher had murdered his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra "Kasi" Perkins, with whom he had a 3-month-daughter, and then killed himself. After shooting Perkins at the home they shared, Belcher drove to the Chiefs' stadium where he met head coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli in the parking lot and thanked them for their work with him.  Then as police arrived, Belcher shot himself in the head.

It was all over by 8:15 a.m.

Who Is Jovan Belcher?: As the hours went by and details dripped out, the senseless news only got more so. Belcher was no NFL hot head, nor was he a glamorous high-draft pick. After a good career at the University of Maine, a football dead end for most, Belcher earned his way into the NFL through tryouts and practice play. Both there and in Kansas City, where he'd started since 2010, he was known for a complete lack of bad behavior, poor decisions or personality problems, as his agent, Joe Linta, told Sports Illustrated's football dean, Peter King.

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"When you deal with a kid who you have seen nothing but genuineness and charity, interacting with inner-city kids, the way he acted around anybody he came across up here, everybody he met would say, 'What a pleasant kid,'" Linta said. "You would have to look long and hard to find somebody that didn't speak glowingly about him."

Post-Concert Fight: Several reports said the couple quarreled when Perkins arrived home late Friday night after attending a Trey Songz concert, though no domestic violence has been reported in their relationship and USA Today even unearthed an anti-Domestic Violence pledge Belcher took in college.  ESPN reported a conversation a coach who had known Belcher at Maine recently had with him in which he spoke with great pride of his new role as father. Sunday afternoon, Deadspin printed emails from someone claiming to be Belcher's friend who said the player suffered from head injuries and alcohol abuse.

Sad History: The Belcher tragedy is neither the first murder-suicide between a Chief and a woman nor the only recent gun suicide by an NFL player.  As Yahoo's Shutdown Corner recounts, 1960s Kansas City star Jim Tyrer shot both his wife and himself in 1980. Two months ago at the Kansas City Royals baseball stadium, just adjacent to the Chiefs' facility, a man shot a female employee, then killed himself. In 2010, Denver wide receiver Kenny McKinley shot himself (current Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn was his teammate there) and Hall of Famer Junior Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot last spring.  Seau's death was the latest in a string of NFL deaths linked to the long term effects of brain injuries suffered from the game.

Read last week's NFL recap!

Fans Stand Down:  A small sidebar to the tragedy was a temporary détente in the feud between the Chiefs the growing fan movement seeking Crennel and Pioli's firing. SaveOurChiefs.com cancelled both a "Can Pioli"-Charity Can Drive Sunday and the scheduled flight of a banner over the stadium.  SaveOurChiefs has called for fans to wear black to games in protest, but a Facebook post Saturday said, "we encourage fans to wear what they feel is appropriate to the game be it black, red, grey or whatever color you want to wear.  We ask that you do not carry any 'Fire Pioli' signs into the stadium and just go to the game and be (a) fan. … We feel that tomorrow's game is neither the proper place nor the proper time to continue these activities but rather tomorrow's game should be a time for all fans to come together and help this team recover from a great tragedy."

The Game Goes On: By midday Saturday, the NFL announced that the Chiefs-Panther game would be played, a decision met with resigned agreement from most fans. As Sports Illustrated star columnist Michael Rosenberg tweeted:  "Seems crazy to play that Chiefs game tomorrow. But there is no good way to deal with a murder-suicide. I don't know what's right."

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A Kansas City Star online poll split evenly on whether to hold the game.

Around 1 p.m. Sunday, Arrowhead stadium was half empty. The PA announcer called for a moment of silence in memory of Domestic Violence victims.  Belcher was not named. Then the captains for the Chiefs and Panthers came to midfield, ready to move on.

A coin was flipped. Kansas City won. Maybe luck can change.

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