CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Dick Vermeil was the beneficiary of another bizarre finish.
When it appeared the
Kansas City Chiefs
were headed for a season-opening loss, a 36-yard run by tackle
and a penalty against linebacker
set up a 30-yard field goal by
with no time left as the Chiefs escaped with an improbable 40-39 victory over the
The Chiefs were trailing 39-37 with three seconds left when
was nearly sacked by Rudd, but instead lateraled to Tait, who rumbled for 36 yards before being shoved out of bounds. However, after the near sack, Rudd flung his helmet in celebration, thinking the game was over and was whistled by referee Ron Blum for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Since a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, which took the ball half the distance to the Cleveland 13, the Chiefs were given an extra play and Anderson drilled the winning field goal.
"They were rushing three and the linebacker was blitzing," Green said. "I was trying to buy time, he was spinning around and I knew I was going down. John was the first guy I saw and I knew it wasn't a forward pass. Instead of going down to end the game, I flipped it to big John to see what happens."
"I just took off and saw some guys on the left side blocking for me," Tait said. "I've had dreams about things like this. But in the dreams, I scored a touchdown but I'll take this."
Rudd confirmed afterwards that he thought he had sacked Green.
"I thought he (Green) was down," Rudd said. "When I tackled him, he rolled over on my facemask. I rolled over and saw triple zeroes on the clock and thought the game was over. But I didn't get a chance to look behind me and see that the game was over. I shouldn't have taken it (the helmet) off because it is against the NFL rules and it cost us a 15-yard penalty."
The fortunate ending reminded Chiefs coach Vermeil of a previous gift win he received when he coached the
. In a game known as "The Miracle of the Meadowlands," Vermeil's Eagles pulled out a 19-17 victory over the
New York Giants
when quarterback Joe Pisarcik just had to fall on the ball to run out the clock, but instead flubbed a handoff to Larry Csonka and Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards returned the fumble for a touchdown in the final seconds.
"I won the miracle of the Meadowlands once," Vermeil said. "I'm sure they are shellshocked. I have won and lost games like this before in my career and I know how it feels."
The Browns had taken a 39-37 lead when
booted a 41-yard field goal with 35 seconds left.
"I'm sick," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "For us to fight as hard as we did to put ourselves in a position to win and to have something like that to happen is inexcusable. To lose our composure and get a stupid penalty like that when you've got the game won is tough."
The loss spoiled a fine effort by quarterback
, who was making his first start in nearly five years in place of
. Couch, who started all 16 games a year ago, was out with scar tissue in his right elbow. Holcomb completed 27-of-39 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns.
"It's just unbelievable and we needed to come out of here with a win," Holcomb said. "It doesn't matter how anybody plays, all that matters is that we lost the game. That is what it boils down to."
, the NFL's leading rusher a year ago, carried 22 times for 122 yards and a career-high four touchdowns for the Chiefs.
"It was an exciting game for me," Holmes said. "I am working more on my patience this year. I was really reading the blocks."
Dawson's 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter gave Cleveland a 30-17 lead before Holmes scored twice in a span of 61 seconds to put Kansas City ahead. Holmes ran for a 26-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to six and Holcomb fumbled on the next possession and defensive tackle
recovered at the Browns' 15-yard line. Holmes scored on the next play for a 31-30 advantage.
Holcomb bounced back and found
for a 44-yard touchdown down the right sideline as Chiefs cornerback
fell down on the play. The Browns missed a two-point conversion try, leaving them ahead 36-31.
Green needed just 2:47 to drive Kansas City 74 yards in six plays. Holmes had a 23-yard run in the drive and scored on 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line for his third touchdown of the quarter. Green was stopped just short of the goal line on a two-point try and Kansas City settled for a 37-36 edge with just over three minutes remaining.
Cleveland again came back and a 25-yard pass from Holcomb to
helped set up Dawson's go-ahead field goal.
Holcomb's big day resulted in big days for Morgan and Johnson. Morgan caught nine passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns and Johnson had eight receptions for 96 yards. Johnson also threw a touchdown on a trick play with a 33-yard toss to Morgan in the second quarter.
"It is bitter, not sweet," Morgan said. "Like I said, I would rather have one catch and win the game than have the game I had and lose the game. We just have to finish games."
It all helped offset a poor effort on the ground as
carried 12 times for 42 yards and rookie
, the Browns' first-round pick, rushed eight times for 17 yards.
completed 20-of-29 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown with one interception. His favorite targets were
, who had four catches for 120 yards, and tight end
, who had five receptions for 87 yards.