Chiefs take off interim tag and make Romeo Crennel coach

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Going 2-1 and stunning then-undefeated Green Bay as Kansas City’s interim head coach meant a lot more than gratification for Romeo Crennel.

It also persuaded the Kansas City Chiefs to give the affable defensive specialist a second chance to be an NFL head coach.

The Chiefs announced Monday that Crennel was the official replacement for the fired Todd Haley, removing the interim tag he bore for the last three weeks of the season.

“The three games had a lot to do with where we arrived at this decision,” general manager Scott Pioli said. “Some of the things we saw was a great deal of accountability and consistency. There was also a different energy to the football team. A lot of it had to do with those last three games.”

Warm and personable, Crennel, 64, is a sharp departure from Haley. Often called a “players’ coach” he’s been known to write off mistakes as youthful indiscretions. Ironically, being soft with players was a criticism when he was fired after four years as coach in Cleveland with a 24-40 record.

He was an instant hit with Chiefs players while serving as Haley’s defensive coordinator the past two years. After the Chiefs beat the Packers 19-14 on Dec. 18 in their first game with Crennel in charge, the Chiefs chanted his nickname, “RAC! RAC!” as they ran up the tunnel.

He was always considered the front-runner to replace Haley, even though Pioli said he interviewed “more than half a dozen” candidates.

Thomas sprinted into record book

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For such a slow starter, Demaryius Thomas sure dashed right into history.

Betrayed by his body, it took the Denver Broncos’ newest star until the end of his second NFL season to validate his status as the first wide receiver selected in the 2010 draft, ahead of Dallas’ Dez Bryant.

Now he’s a household name, despite playing in Denver’s read-option offense, where wide receivers serve more as blockers and decoys than pass-catchers.

Thomas ended the quickest overtime in NFL history - 11 seconds - with the longest winning touchdown in any playoff game. His electrifying 80-yard catch Sunday from Tim Tebow sent the Broncos to a 29-23 win over Pittsburgh.

Dogged by a broken foot, sprained ankle, concussion, torn Achilles and fractured finger since turning pro, Thomas said Monday he never doubted he’d regain his health and prove he was a worthy first-rounder.

“It was just the freak accidents that were just happening,” Thomas said. “I knew once I got back on the field and got healthy, I can make some plays and help my team.”

Refreshed Ravens ready for visit from Texans

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As a reward for going 12-4 and winning the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens got to watch football over the weekend instead of playing it. It was a luxury they did not take for granted.

In each of the previous three years, the Ravens reached the playoffs as a wild card team and had to play on the road during the opening weekend of the postseason.

This season, Baltimore earned a bye during wild card weekend by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 24-16 on Jan. 1 to earn the AFC North title in a tiebreaker over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who also went 12-4 but lost twice to the Ravens.

So, while the Steelers lost at Denver, the Ravens kicked back and watched the show. And now, Baltimore is rested and healthy heading into Sunday’s matchup at home against the Houston Texans (11-6).

“We did what we had to do to get that first-week bye,” Ravens defensive end Cory Redding said.

Giants get their wish: another crack at Rodgers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants’ defense wanted another shot at Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers after a last-second loss last month. They got their wish.

And this time it might be a fair fight.

The last time the Giants (10-7) faced the Packers, Rodgers shredded the defense for 449 yards and four touchdowns, winning the game with a 68-yard drive in the final minute to set up a 31-yard field goal in a 38-35 decision.

That’s ancient history. The Giants’ defense has come light years in five weeks. The front four is dominating, led by All-Pro Jason Pierre-Paul, with Justin Tuck finally healthy, and Osi Umenyiora recovered from an ankle injury.

The secondary is covering receivers and opponents are being stuffed on the run. It’s shutdown football, as was evident Sunday in a 24-2 win over the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC wild card game at MetLife Stadium.

That set up the rematch with the Packers (15-1) at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

“We wanted to see them again, but we realized in seeing them again it would be in a playoff game like this, so obviously we wanted to see them again,” Tuck said Monday. “But yeah, we felt like we let one slip through our hands.”

Police searching for Packers aides’s son

OSHKOSH, Wis. — Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin’s son is missing.

Police in Oshkosh said Michael T. Philbin, 21, of Ripon was last heard from around 2 a.m. Sunday. He had been visiting friends in Oshkosh that evening. He was reported missing Sunday evening.

Joe Philbin has been with the Packers since 2003 and has been the team’s offensive coordinator since 2007. He interviewed for the Miami Dolphins’ head coaching job last week.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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