Playoffs out of reach, Chiefs refuse to lay down

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton (8) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour (92) during the first half of an NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton (8) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour (92) during the first half of an NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. Photo by The Associated Press.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP ) — Romeo Crennel has already earned a reputation for being a straight shooter in Kansas City.

He knows the Chiefs squandered a chance to play for the playoffs in an overtime loss to Oakland on Saturday.

He realizes that he may be coaching for his job in Sunday's game against Denver. He also understands the frustration that fans are experiencing as an ugly season draws to a close.

Crennel is willing to acknowledge all of that and more, which makes it easy to believe him when he says with resolution that Kansas City won't lay down despite the playoffs being out of reach.

The Chiefs are left to play for pride while Denver plays for the playoffs.

The Broncos are in if they win, or if the Raiders lose to the struggling San Diego Chargers.

Romeo Crennel has already earned a reputation for being a straight shooter in Kansas City.

He knows the Chiefs squandered a chance to play for the playoffs in an overtime loss to Oakland on Saturday. He realizes that he may be coaching for his job in Sunday's game against Denver.

He also understands the frustration that fans are experiencing as an ugly season draws to a close.

Crennel is willing to acknowledge all of that and more, which makes it easy to believe him when he says with resolution that Kansas City won't lay down despite the playoffs being out of reach.

"All these payers, they want to win. They want to try to win," the interim coach said Monday. "I don't think anybody goes into a game trying to lose. Every player wants to win."

The Chiefs' frustrating loss to the Raiders was a microcosm of a rollercoaster year.

Things looked promising when Kansas City would put together long offensive series or force Oakland into three-and-out, only to look dire when quarterback Kyle Orton would throw an interception or the special teams would make a critical mistake.

The result was a loss that prevented a de facto AFC West championship game.

Now, the Chiefs are left to play for pride while Denver plays for the playoffs.

The Broncos are in if they win, or if the Raiders lose to the struggling San Diego Chargers.

"It's disappointing that we can't play in the postseason," linebacker Tamba Hali said, "(but) we signed up to play 16. We've got to go there and show those guys we can play."

Although bigger goals are no longer within reach, players know they can help Crennel land the head coaching job on a permanent basis with a win.

The former Cleveland Browns coach has a groundswell of support in the locker room, and the defensive coordinator is popular throughout the organization.

The decision will ultimately be up to general manager Scott Pioli and CEO Clark Hunt, and Crennel batted away any questions about his future before they were even broached on Monday.

"I know there are some questions about my status and how this game might affect my status. I've said all along that at the end of the year, a decision is going to be made, and I was going to do the best I could for the three games I had an opportunity to do that," Crennel said.

"The first game was a really good game. This game wasn't as good, and now I've got one more game. "I try to win every game. Every game is important to me. So what will happen will happen," he added. "I don't believe what I say, what I think, is going to make any difference. It's what I do, the work that I put out there. That's the thing that will make the impact."

Few people outside Oakland would begrudge the Chiefs for taking it easy against Denver.

It's a common practice this time of year, when the postseason is no longer a possibility and the reality of a long offseason is staring you in the face.

Crennel doesn't expect that to be the case, though. He plans to put his best team on the field rather than get some young players in for the experience, guys like rookie quarterback Ricky Stanzi who have spent the majority of the season on the practice squad or the sideline.

"Every game that you play, the guy has to look in the mirror and know he's giving his best effort to try to win the game," Crennel said.

"I think that's the case Sunday with Denver, every guy on the team, the coaches included. Like I said, it's never one guy."

Wide receiver Steve Breaston said he's not necessarily trying to spoiler against the Broncos, even though a few players quietly admitted that they would like nothing more than to knock Tim Tebow's team out of the playoffs, even if it means helping out the rival Raiders.

Rather, Breaston simply wants Kansas City to finish up the season on a high note, especially considering how many lows the Chiefs have experienced.

There was the season-ending injuries to Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Cassel, All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles, Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry and starting tight end Tony Moeaki.

There was the miserable start to the season that featured a pair of losses by a combined 89-10, one of the worst two-game stretches in franchise history.

There was the internal turmoil that ultimately resulted in the firing of coach Todd Haley after a 37-10 loss to the New York Jets, and the appointment of Crennel as the interim coach.

There was the loss Saturday to Oakland, when a victory would have yielded so much promise.

"Things happened throughout the season, the inconsistency," Breaston said. "But if you plan to be a part of this roster next year, you should have a lot of motivation."

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