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Chiefs beat Panthers at somber Arrowhead Stadium

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Chiefs beat Panthers at somber Arrowhead Stadium

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Brady Quinn tried to avoid looking at the empty locker when he arrived at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback couldn't bear the sight of Jovan Belcher's jersey hanging from a hook, just like it would have any other game day.

``That's when it kind of hit me,'' Quinn said. ``It was kind of tough to step back and gain focus, what the task was in front of us. And more than anything, as a player, we just wanted to come together as a team and bring some good to this situation.''

The Chiefs managed to do that in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy.

Quinn threw two touchdown passes and Jamaal Charles ran for 127 yards in an inspired 27-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers. It not only ended an eight-game losing streak, it also proved cathartic for a franchise still reeling from a murder-suicide involving one of its own.

``It was tough,'' Quinn said, his voice shaky at times. ``It was an eerie feeling after a win, because you don't think you can really win in this situation.''

According to authorities, the 25-year-old Belcher shot his girlfriend multiple times early Saturday at a residence near Arrowhead Stadium, then sped to the team's practice facility and turned the gun on himself as coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli watched in the parking lot.

``It's tough when circumstances happen that you can't undo,'' Crennel said, tears forming at the corners of his eyes. ``You have to rely on each other, rely on your family, your friends and your faith. That's what, as a team, we tried to do today.''

Crennel said he consulted with the Chiefs' captains before deciding to play the game as scheduled. He was on the sideline throughout the day, resolutely holding together a team in turmoil, while Pioli walked through the press box before the kickoff and said he was ``OK.''

``If for no other reason, it took our minds off our misery for a few hours,'' Crennel said.

Kansas City police have not released a motive for the shootings, which claimed the life of Belcher and 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, and left their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, an orphan.

Those details may emerge in the coming days and weeks.

``It's been an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family and our entire organization,'' Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt told The Associated Press. ``We have so many guys on our team and our coaching staff who are really, really hurting.''

Chiefs players gathered in the tunnel leading to the field for a brief prayer before their pregame stretching. A few fans in the half-empty stadium held up signs referencing the shootings, and there was a moment of silence to remember all victims of domestic violence.

``I was really emotional going to the stadium this morning,'' Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. ``We wanted to play the game because we're football players. We love the game.''

Once it began, it proved to be an emotional release.

Peyton Hillis had a touchdown run for Kansas City (2-10), while Tony Moeaki and Jon Baldwin had TD catches. Ryan Succop hit a pair of field goals, including a 52-yarder with 4:54 left.

The Panthers then went three-and-out, and the Chiefs were able to run the clock down to 31 seconds before giving back the ball. Cam Newton completed two quick passes to reach the Carolina 38, but his final heave as time expired was caught by Steve Smith short of the end zone.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera greeted Crennel at midfield and gave him a hug.

``They played an inspired football game,'' Rivera said. ``They did some really good things, and we have to give them credit, because they suffered through a very difficult time.''

Newton threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers (3-9), who were informed the game would be played as scheduled while they were heading to Kansas City on Saturday.

DeAngelo Williams added 67 yards rushing, carrying the load with Jonathan Stewart out with an injury. Smith, Greg Olsen and Louis Murphy caught Carolina's TD passes.

``You definitely feel for them. What they are going through is tragic,'' Olsen said. ``But we have a job to do. Our job is to come here and prepare to win. They wouldn't expect any less.''

Kansas City certainly looked like a team inspired on the game's first possession.

The Chiefs marched 74 yards in just six plays, and finished the drive off when Hillis powered in from the Carolina 2 for the touchdown. It was the first TD on an opening possession for the Chiefs since Dec. 26, 2010, a span of nearly two full seasons.

Hillis ran to the sideline after the score, giving Crennel the ball and a hug.

The Panthers answered with a long touchdown drive of their own, the big play a 47-yard touchdown pass to Olsen. The Chiefs tacked on a field goal before Carolina scored again, this time on a pass to Smith in the corner of the end zone.

But Kansas City finished off the half with one of its best drives of the year, an 80-yard march that took up the final 7:25. Hillis was stuffed at the line on third-and-goal, and Crennel allowed the clock to hit 2 seconds before calling timeout. On the final play of the half, Quinn saw Moeaki open in the back of the end zone and delivered a soft toss for a 17-14 lead.

Breathing room came late in the third quarter when the Chiefs used 17 plays to go 87 yards on a drive that lasted another 10 minutes. Quinn finished it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin.

Carolina mounted a comeback on the opening drive of the fourth quarter, with Newton hitting Murphy on a quick slant route from the 8 to get the Panthers within a field goal. But the Chiefs added their own field goal, and then burned enough of the clock to ensure the victory.

One that allowed the Chiefs to celebrate in the midst of their mourning.

``There were pockets in the game where reality hits you again, and that's sobering,'' said Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker. ``I've been telling people, Jovan was like a brother to us. His family was family to us. Our hearts go out to them, man, and the game maybe took our heads off it for a while - it brought us closer as a team today, I think - but it's never going to be easy.''

NOTES: Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers (hamstring), S Abe Elam (left leg) and LB Derrick Johnson (left hamstring) left the game with injuries. Carolina lost LB James Anderson (eye), Murphy (foot) and S Sherrod Martin (right knee) during the game. ... Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe caught four passes to move into third place in franchise history with 413 catches.

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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