KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The Chiefs no longer have a dog in the AFC West title fight.
Yet even in the wake of a disappointing overtime loss Saturday against the Raiders, a 16-13 defeat that ended of the Chiefs' playoff hopes, the players barked about showing how much fight was left in the dog during the season finale at Denver.
"We're playing for each other," cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "We've been working hard since training camp with each other on that field. We're not going to go out next week and just lay down. We're going to keep fighting like we've been fighting all year."
Hopes for an AFC West repeat were slim entering the weekend, but the Broncos, 8-7, and Chargers, 7-8, cooperated in cracking the door for the Chiefs to control their own destiny.
Oakland, 8-7, slammed that door shut, but no team needs the Chiefs, 6-9, to play better in Denver than the Raiders, whose hopes for a division title now hinge on the Broncos losing next week.
"We were hoping to be in the driver's seat going to Denver, but we didn't do our part," fullback Le'Ron McClain said.
Relegated to the role of spoiler, the Chiefs insist winning is its own reward and its own motivation.
"It's a division opponent and we want to go on the road and beat a division opponent," interim coach Romeo Crennel said. "That's what we're going to use — pride in your performance and the group you represent — and that's what it is. All these guys have pride and they have egos and they want to win."
The Chiefs no longer care whether it's the Broncos or Raiders who win the division as long as the Broncos don't win next week's game.
"We get to play a team who came in here and beat us," rush linebacker Tamba Hali said. "If you're not motivated to play week in and week out, you shouldn't play in this league. We're very motivated to get out on the field and prove ourselves again. Our only focus is to beat the Denver Broncos."
Actions ultimately will speak louder than words, but the Chiefs are saying that next week isn't meaningless. Professionalism was a post-game theme.
"It's your profession, so every time you put your uniform on you play with pride," defensive end Glenn Dorsey said. "I don't think it's going to be hard to get focused at all. Guys play for their hometown, their family, the community. I don't think that will be hard. We've got a lot of fighters in here and we're going to fight next week too. Nobody in here is going to give up."
Besides, jobs are on the line for next season.
That is perhaps most true for Crennel and quarterback Kyle Orton, who started the first five games for Denver then was waived Nov. 22 and claimed a day later by the Chiefs.
Orton, who has completed 44 of 67 passes for 599 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in two starts with the Chiefs, including a stunning win against then-unbeaten Green Bay, will hit the free-agent market after the season.
Still, he insists — or would have the world believe — revenge against the Broncos won't add fuel to his competitive fire this week.
"I'm motivated quite a bit for every game," Orton said. "You only get 16 games in this league and that's not a lot. We put a lot of effort and a lot of work in those 16 games, so you'd better take advantage of each one."
Meanwhile, Crennel, 64, the former Browns coach and Patriots defensive coordinator, is beloved in the Chiefs' locker room and is believed to be among the leading candidates to replace Haley full time entering next season.
That provides ample motivation to show well among the players hoping to see Crennel retained.
"We definitely want to get a win for Romeo, but also for the whole organization, the fans, each other and everybody," Flowers said. "We've still got to try and go out there and win next week."