Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/8/14

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Antone Smith of the Atlanta Falcons is tackled by Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on August 13, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
As the Kansas City Chiefs stepped onto the field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon, they were preparing for more than just a football game. Peyton Hillis was well aware of that reality, gathering his teammates in the locker room before the game and using the bible as his guide, as NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington noted on Monday. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” That was just the beginning of the excerpt he read from the book of Ephesians (chapter 6, verses 10-20), using the words of God to enlighten and motivate his teammates in their most trying hour. At 1-9 on the season entering Sunday, the Chiefs understood what it was like to lose. But not like this. Barely 24 hours before taking the field, maybe 100 yards from where the Chiefs players now stood, their teammate, friend and brother had died. Jovan Belcher‘s tragic death was still far too fresh to understand or internalize exactly what had transpired, and yet there was work to be done. Behind Hillis’ motivational words and head coach Romeo Crennel‘s leadership, the Chiefs marched onto the field and made a statement in their 27-21 win against the Carolina Panthers. The result, which included a standout performance from Jamaal Charles and some unexpected success from quarterback Brady Quinn, marked more than just a win for the Chiefs, though. What they accomplished on Sunday wasn’t merely playing a game. It was much more than that. In the face of such tragedy, felt by both the organization and the city of Kansas City, the Chiefs stepped up and showed their true mettle and grit. They lifted the spirits of the more than 60,000 fans inside Arrowhead Stadium and left an unforgettable impression on the football world, and the world in general. Belcher’s death, and the gruesome circumstances leading up to it, is a reality that goes beyond just the NFL or the world of sports. It’s something that hits home for some, frightens many and that all can empathize or at least sympathize with. It’s far greater than any single game or sport, and such a grand tragedy sometimes calls for an even greater response. And on Sunday, Hillis and his teammates answered that call in the best way they knew how. Many questioned whether the game should’ve been played in the first place, but in seeing what resulted and the impact that game had on those players, there wouldn’t have been a better place for them to be or a better way for them to cope. Sunday’s are for football in Kansas City, just like everywhere else around the United States. But on this Sunday, the game itself took a back seat. Rather it was about paying homage and the emotional triumph associated that took center stage. And maybe — although under different pretenses — that’s how it should be more often. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
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