Rudd's Poorly Timed Toss Costs Browns

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Never mind the quarterbacks, the worst throw on the NFL's opening weekend was by a linebacker.

And Dwayne Rudd's poorly timed toss was certainly Sunday's dumbest.

"There's no easy explanation," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "It was a disastrous end to a football game."

Rudd drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for flinging his helmet in celebration, setting up Morten Andersen's 30-yard field goal with no time left Sunday and giving the Kansas City Chiefs a stunning 40-39 win over Cleveland.

"I'm sick," Davis said.

Rudd's boneheaded play might enter the league's annals beside the likes of Jim Marshall's wrong-way run as one of the worst plays in NFL history.

"I shouldn't have taken my helmet off," Rudd said. "If you take off your helmet, it's against the rules. It was a great call by the refs. That's how the game should have ended, with them kicking a field goal."

It was the Browns' second straight bizarre finish at home.

Cleveland's home finale last season ended with fans throwing thousands of plastic beer bottles on the field to protest a call overturned by instant replay. Those bottles are now banned in Browns Stadium. Rudd's lone projectile cost Cleveland this time.

Thinking he had sacked Kansas City's Trent Green, Rudd had his back to the play (pictured, above) and didn't see the quarterback flip the ball to 6-foot-6, 323-pound tackle John Tait, who rumbled 28 yards to the Browns 25.

While Rudd retrieved his helmet, the officials moved the ball half the distance to the goal line for Andersen, whose winning kick capped a 23-point fourth quarter for Kansas City.

"This was just luck," said Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, who missed training camp but had five catches for 87 yards and a TD. "The coaches might call it preparation or whatever. But to me, it's luck, and I'll take it every time."

Priest Holmes matched a club record with four TD runs -- three in the final 9:06 -- and had 122 yards for the Chiefs, who trailed 30-17 with 11:19 left after Cleveland's Phil Dawson kicked a 34-yard field goal.

Kelly Holcomb, who started at quarterback for the injured Tim Couch, was 27-of-39 for 326 yards and three TD passes for the Browns.

Dawson's fourth field goal with 29 seconds left -- his 19th straight dating to last season -- put the Browns ahead 39-37 with 29 seconds to play.

However, Cleveland holder Chris Gardocki was called for taunting on the kick, forcing Dawson to kick off from his own 15 and the Chiefs returned it to the 35.

On first down, Green ran for 12 yards and quickly lined up the offense before spiking the ball with four seconds left.

The Chiefs sent all their receivers deep into the right end zone to try a final, desperation play. Green was flushed from the pocket and was about to be sacked by Rudd when he alertly tossed the ball behind him to Tait.

"I was just looking for a red jersey, and I saw it was John," Green said. "We're going to have to check his background to see if he was a running back at any point."

With a convoy of blockers, Tait stomped his way down the left sideline before he was shoved out of bounds.

"I've never had the ball before, not even in Pop Warner," Tait said.

Back up the field, Rudd was sure he tackled Green before the quarterback got rid of it.

"I thought he was down," Rudd said. "When I tackled him, he rolled over on my facemask. I looked up and saw triple zeros on the clock and thought the game was over."

But referee Ron Blum announced the infraction against Rudd, and said Kansas City's kick would be an untimed play. A game cannot end on a defensive penalty.

Andersen then split the uprights as Kansas City capped a wild afternoon of scoring.

"I went to BYU, man," Tait said. "I'm used to these high-scoring games but it's never over till it's over."

Notes: Holmes' four rushing TDs matched the Chiefs' record previously set by Abner Haynes in 1961. ... Browns RT Ryan Tucker, one of the club's big free agent signings, sprained his left knee in the first quarter and didn't return. ... Andersen has 30 career game-winning kicks. With 2,046 points, he needs 88 to pass Gary Anderson as the NFL's career scoring leader.

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