Rudd bailed out by Browns' win

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - The only thing Dwayne Rudd flung to the ground was Warrick Dunn.

Rudd, the vilified linebacker whose ill-advised helmet toss in Week 1 cost Cleveland a win over the Kansas City Chiefs, made two big plays on the Browns' late goal-line stand Sunday that helped them make the AFC playoffs.

If the Browns had come up short of the postseason, Rudd's infamous throw in the final seconds on Sept. 8, would have been pointed to as one of the big reasons.

Instead, the linebacker was instrumental in helping Cleveland return to the AFC playoffs for the first time since 1994.

Rudd made two big plays near the goal line as the Browns stopped Atlanta four times inside the 4-yard line.

On second down, Rudd was in perfect position to defend a pass from Michael Vick intended for tight end Alge Crumpler deep in the corner of the end zone.

On third down, Rudd got low to submarine Dunn, the Falcons 5-foot-8 running back at the 1.

"When he got low, I had to get lower. That was satisfying," Rudd said. "The win was satisfying."

Although his boneheaded play made him the subject of national ridicule, Rudd said he tried to put it behind him.

"That was the play everybody remembers," he said. "But believe me, every player remembers every play. I've been trying to play hard all year, but that play today makes me feel better."

Rudd credited his teammates with helping him forget about the play that helped give Kansas City a 40-39 win.

"They never dwelled on it," he said. "They moved on. I moved on. We have short memories. I could have gotten beat by a bomb for a score -- same thing. It's over and done. My teammates were my family, so supportive."

Rudd didn't fault the media for dwelling on his controversial play.

"Fans deserve to know," he said. "They pay our salary and deserve to know."

As the final seconds ticked off the clock Sunday, Rudd removed his helmet and sprinted to midfield where he and several teammates danced on the Browns' orange helmet logo.

Cornerback Corey Fuller said Rudd knew that was the way the game would end.

"The guy that everyone was riding about the helmet," Fuller said. "He told me we were going to make the playoffs."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)