Romeo Crennel’s biggest concern heading into Sunday’s final game of the season at Denver isn’t turnovers, penalties, a feeble passing game, the Broncos or even Colorado’s notoriously unpredictable winter weather.
It’s making sure the Chiefs have their heads in the right place and haven’t already started on offseason plans, mentally at least.
“I don’t want us to fall apart and just go out there and not give effort, not play hard, those kinds of things,” Crennel said. “They’ve done a nice job all year of staying together, not pointing fingers and continuing to try to play hard and win games. That’s what I want them to do in this last game of the year.”
If history is a guide, Crennel has a valid concern. The Chiefs went on the road for what turned out to be their final games under Gunther Cunningham in 2000 and Herm Edwards in 2008. Cunningham’s team was flat in a loss to the forlorn Falcons and Edwards’ team couldn’t keep up with Cincinnati.
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Sunday’s game could test the Chiefs in that regard
“At some point when the season is not going good, there’s always the possibility that things can fall apart,” Crennel said. “To the credit of these guys, it hasn’t fallen apart in the locker room. They’ve pulled together for each other and they work hard during the week. We just come up short on Sundays. That’s the way it’s been all year.
The Chiefs will get an honest effort from the 12-3 Broncos. They long ago clinched the AFC West championship but on Sunday will be playing to protect the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs — or even become the top seed, if Houston loses to Indianapolis earlier in the day.
In Denver, Broncos coach John Fox told reporters he wasn’t going to be distracted by playoff scenarios.
“Nope, because then I wouldn’t be keeping my focus,” Fox said. “I think what’s really important is that win this week against Kansas City. All our focus will be on that. Whatever that brings, we’ll react to. Right now, that’s where all the focus is.”
So, to beat the Broncos, who have won 10 straight games, the Chiefs will have to earn it. Denver defeated the Chiefs 17-9 a month ago at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We’re professional football players,” wide receiver Jon Baldwin said. “Our job is to play the game, to win the game, and we’re not going to give up. We’re going to go out, practice hard, come get ready to play this game and try to win this football game. That’s all we can do.”
A possible advantage for the Chiefs is that the Broncos are a division opponent. A rival tends to get an opponent’s attention, though the Chiefs are 0-5 in AFC West games this season.
The Chiefs fell to 2-13 Sunday by losing 20-13 to Indianapolis at Arrowhead.
“Brush this loss off,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said when asked what his message to teammates would be this week. “No matter what the record is, division games mean something to us in the locker room. We are going into a hostile environment next week in Denver and we have to be ready. We do not need to get embarrassed with Peyton Manning on the field.”
Crennel was less than solid in saying that Brady Quinn would be the starting quarterback against the Broncos.
“At the time being, yes,” Crennel said. “Every position is subject to change. Everything gets evaluated. If a decision needs to be made, it will be made.”
Quinn threw two interceptions against the Colts. One was returned for a touchdown and the other, on a first-down play inside the Indianapolis 20, was woefully underthrown.
Quinn afterward took full blame for the defeat. The Chiefs rushed for 352 yards, an NFL record for a losing team.
“He understands that the quarterback position, just like the head coaching position, the buck stops at your desk,” Crennel said. “When things don’t go well offensively, he knows the quarterback is scrutinized.”