Two unsportsmanlikeconduct penalties cost Cleveland a win in the first game of the season.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
CLEVELAND -- Stupid and unnecessary penalties in the final 29 seconds cost the reborn Cleveland Browns a golden opportunity to snap their season-opener losing streak that extends to 1995.
After Phil Dawson's fourth field goal of the game gave the Browns a 39-37 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs, holder Chris Gardocki (taunting) and linebacker Dwayne Rudd (unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet) were flagged to set up Morten Andersen's game-winning 30-yard field goal after time expired.
"I'm sick," said Browns coach Butch Davis after the Chiefs rallied for 23 fourth-quarter points and a 40-39 victory Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"For us to fight as hard as we did to put ourselves in a position to win and then to have something like that happen at the end is inexcusable," Davis said. "To lose our composure and to get a stupid penalty like that when you've got the game won is tough."
Although the NFL season has just begun, it's hard to imagine a game this year ending in a more bizarre fashion.
"It was the craziest game I have played in 10 years," Chiefs lineman Willie Roaf said.
With two seconds remaining and the ball at the Kansas City 47, Rudd bore down on Chiefs quarterback Trent Green. In desperation, Green lateraled the ball to tackle John Tait, who rambled 28 yards to the Cleveland 25.
Rudd, in the meantime, collided with Green, kept his back to the play, took off his helmet and flung it.
"I thought he was down," Rudd explained, believing the game had ended with a sack. "I never saw him get the ball away [to Tait].
"When I tackled him, he rolled over on my facemask," Rudd said. "I looked up and saw triple zeroes -- I didn't get a chance to look behind me and see the game wasn't over [but] I shouldn't have taken it off. There is no excuse."
Davis said he thought the replay official should have called for a review to see if Green's toss was a lateral or a forward pass.
Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil disagreed.
"When I saw the ball go backwards, I knew it was a legal play," Vermeil said. "[But] I saw [Rudd] take off his helmet and throw it, so I knew that it was a personal foul."
Gardocki denied he did anything to earn a taunting penalty after Dawson's 41-yard field goal with 29 seconds remaining put the Browns ahead 39-37.
"Before and after the play, both teams were talking [trash] back and forth," Gardocki said. "I don't know how [the referee] heard me say anything."
The Chiefs' comeback spoiled a fine performance by Browns backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb, who threw three touchdown passes and completed 27-of-39 passes for 326 yards, the Browns' second highest total since returning in 1999.
Second-year wide receiver Quincy Morgan enjoyed career highs in receptions (nine) and yards (151), and scored twice.
"There's no sweet to it," Morgan said. "I'd rather have one catch and win the game than whatever I had today [in a loss]."
Green completed 20-of-29 passes for 276 yards. Running back Priest Holmes rushed for 122 yards on 22 tries and scored four touchdowns. Tight end Tony Gonzalez caught five passes for 87 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown.
Dawson's third field goal put the Browns ahead 30-17 with 11:59 to go.
But a major collapse by the Browns defense plus a Holcomb fumble sparked the Chiefs.
After Holmes rambled 26 yards to cut the Browns' lead to 30-24, Holcomb was sacked by Duane Clemons and fumbled. On the next play, Holmes scored a 15-yard touchdown for a 31-30 lead.
Five plays later, the Browns countered with their final touchdown. Cornerback William Bartee stumbled, freeing Morgan down the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown reception and a 36-30 lead.
But the Browns' try for a two-point conversion failed when running back Jamel White was stuffed.
Six plays later, Holmes scored from 7 yards out for a 37-36 Chiefs advantage.
"We've got way too much talent on defense for the way we played today," Davis said.