Chiefs' Crennel focused on finishing trying year


Chiefs' Crennel focused on finishing trying year

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The only person who seems to be at ease with the question about Romeo Crennel's future with the Chiefs is the man who is being asked to answer it.

He's a coach who has only managed to coax two wins out of a team predicted to compete for the AFC West title. He's a guy respected and beloved in the locker room but who appears lost on the sideline, and who has had just one winning season in five years as an NFL head coach.

But he's also a man who witnessed one of his own players commit suicide after committing murder, and then served as the face of a franchise in mourning. He's a man who shelved his own emotions to provide unwavering leadership when the team walked into Arrowhead Stadium one day later and beat Carolina for one of those two victories.

``We're in this business to win, because that's how it's kind of counted, by your win-loss record,'' Crennel said this week, when asked about his future in Kansas City.

``When you're not able to win,'' he said, ``you always wonder about yourself: What do I need to do more? What haven't I done? And those kinds of things.''

Nobody knows exactly how hot Crennel's seat is in Kansas City, though.

Not even Crennel himself.

For one thing, general manager Scott Pioli's job also appears on the line after a season marked by on-the-field misery and off-the-field atrocities. An unprecedented fan rebellion has been calling for his job for weeks, and it's possible that the man who elevated Crennel from interim head coach to the full-time job last season may not be around long, either.

Pioli hasn't spoken publicly since the Chiefs' bye midway through the season, when he said that Crennel had his support. Pioli was with Crennel when linebacker Jovan Belcher took his own life outside the team's practice facility, adding another layer of complexity to the decisions that will soon be facing Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt.

Then there's the fact that Crennel simply won't spend time pondering his fate.

He's been a coach for more than four decades, progressing through the college ranks to the NFL, where he helped to win five Super Bowls as an assistant. He understands as well as anybody how tenuous life is in professional sports, and that next season is never guaranteed.

``The future is the next game,'' Crennel said. ``So that's the one I'm concentrating on and seeing what I can do to try to win the game. If we win the game, we'll see what happens down the road. The only control I have is trying to win a game.''

It's certainly an important game for reasons beyond the fate of the Chiefs' coach.

Indianapolis visits Kansas City on Sunday with a chance to wrap up an improbable playoff berth, something that few dreamed possible when they lost their first 13 games last season.

If nothing else, the rapid way the Colts have turned around their franchise should be heartening for the Chiefs, who are headed for one of the worst finishes in team history.

The question becomes who will be in charge of orchestrating that turnaround.

``This is a business, so you can't worry about that,'' said linebacker Derrick Johnson, who is on his fourth coach in eight years in the league. ``When you're having a losing season, everybody's job is in jeopardy, players and coaches. That's just the way it is, the nature of the beast.''

Crennel certainly graded out highly among players and fans when he took over for the fired Todd Haley last season, and then guided the Chiefs to a victory over then-unbeaten Green Bay and a season-ending road win against the Broncos.

Afterward, players chanted his name in the locker room, and many of them openly campaigned for the former Cleveland Browns coach to get the job on a permanent basis.

``That's the most disappointing part of this year, one of them, is not getting the results the way we feel for Romeo,'' Johnson said. ``We love Romeo. We were screaming for him after the season to be our coach, and for our season to turn out the way it did, it's disappointing.''

Crennel has tried just about everything to engender change within the team.

He benched incumbent starter Matt Cassel for quarterback Brady Quinn. He fired himself as defensive coordinator and appointed Gary Gibbs to the same role. He's even had a hand in the inspirational signs that are posted outside the Chiefs' locker room.

Nothing has worked, though, and now his job is in jeopardy.

``When you try different things and you still don't win, it kind of wears on you a little bit,'' Crennel said. ``You know you're going to play on Sunday, so you have to put that best foot forward and try to get that win, because that's the best thing that will make you feel better about yourself and about what you're trying to get done.''


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How the Caps turned a sure loss into their first home win in under 90 seconds

How the Caps turned a sure loss into their first home win in under 90 seconds

WASHINGTON -- Another sloppy defensive performance looked like it would doom the Capitals, but a furious three-goal rally in the second period turned what looked like a sure defeat into a stunning 4-3 victory, their first at home this season, over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Toronto took an early lead off a short-handed goal from Kasperi Kapanen. Jonas Siegenthaler then was slow to react to a streaking Ilya Mikheyev who torched him to put the Leafs up 2-0. Jakub Vrana made it 2-1 late in the first, but Toronto looked like they had this game well in hand.

But the Caps rallied and completely turned things around in a stretch of just 1:18 in the second period. Here's how.

Brilliant skating by Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov passed the puck up to the offensive blue line. A skating Carl Hagelin tapped it to John Carlson who entered the zone, pulled back and handed it off to Kuznetsov who took over.

When Kuznetsov gets the puck there are three Maple Leaf players in front of him. He pumps the legs once and then glides in on net and somehow he is behind all three players and in alone on Michael Hutchinson.

Kuznetsov’s speed virtually never changes during the play. There’s no frantic, choppy acceleration, just a smooth glide that allows him to skate in, wait out Hutchinson and tuck the puck around his outstretched pad all in seemingly one fluid motion.

The forecheck pays off 11 seconds later

T.J. Oshie beat out Morgan Rielly in a footrace for the puck in the offensive zone. He circled in the corner to protect the puck with his body from Rielly. He was able to find Nicklas Backstrom in the high slot and Backstrom snapped the puck in.

In a period of just 11 seconds, the Caps had changed the score from 2-1 Leafs to 3-2 Caps.

The flustered Leafs

Momentum is a real thing. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. That was on display in the second period when the Leafs were on their heels after coughing up two quick goals. Just 18 seconds after Backstrom’s goal, Nicholas SHore was called for interference on Oshie.

Do you know how you get two goals and draw an interference penalty in less than a minute? By keeping possession of the puck. Toronto could not get its hands on it at all until Cocy Ceci did on the penalty kill...and promptly threw the puck into the crowd on an attempted clearance from the defensive zone resulting in a delay of game penalty.

A 5-on-3

Ceci’s penalty came just nine seconds after Shore was booked resulting in a two-man advantage for 1:51. The Caps were too hot at that point to not convert. The power play moved the puck very effectively and, critically, managed to retain possession after every shot. The Leafs just could not get there in time to clear it allowing the Caps to take their time, set things up and attack.

The power play shifted with Carlson making his way over to the Ovechkin spot. Ovechkin was fed the puck at the point, faked the slap shot and instead tapped the pass over to Carlson. Carlson did his best Ovechkin impression and fired the one-timer past Hutchinson. That goal made the score 4-2 and capped off an incredible 1:18 stretch in which the Caps turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead, thus ultimately snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Toronto would score a late goal in a comeback attempt but ultimately fell short.


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Capitals score three goals in 90 seconds to take the lead over Toronto

Capitals score three goals in 90 seconds to take the lead over Toronto

The beginning of Wednesday's clash with the Maple Leafs was not pretty for the Capitals.

A pair of goals by Toronto gave them an early lead midway through the first period. But a snipe by Jakub Vrana towards the end of the first frame cut the deficit in half entering the first intermission.

But during the second period, all of a sudden, a switch flipped for the Capitals attack. Washington found the back of the net three times in under 90 seconds, turning a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead.

The first came from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who finished with a beautiful move to sneak the puck past Maple Leafs' goalie Michael Hutchinson's glove.

Just 11 seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom found the back of the net on a beautiful wrister from T.J. Oshie to put the Capitals ahead.

To complete the trifecta, John Carlson's one-timer from Alex Ovechkin went right in between Hutchinson's legs, giving the Capitals a 4-2 lead. 

At the end of the second period, the Capitals hold the same 4-2 lead. Just 20 minutes separate the Capitals from their fourth victory of the season.