CLEVELAND – SEPTEMBER 8: Running back Priest Holmes #31 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs along the sideline during a game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 8, 2002 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Chiefs defeated the Browns 40-39. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
57. Chiefs win wild season-opener vs. Browns (2002)
Head coach Dick Vermeil took the reins of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001. He inherited a team from long-time defensive coordinator and two-year head coach Gunther Cunningham.
Facing more challenges then perhaps any coach in Chiefs history, Cunningham had fielded a team in 2000 that struggled both offensively and coping with the passing of Derrick Thomas. With journeyman quarterback Elvis Grbac at that helm and a subpar running game, who’s leading rusher was fullback Tony Richardson, the team finished below .500.
As 2002 opened, the promise of an improved team dominated. Optimism was climbing with a proven quarterback in Trent Green and young tailback Priest Holmes coming off a 1,500-yard season in 2001. The Cleveland game opened with a slow start despite touchdowns from Green to Tony Gonzalez and another by Holmes. The Chiefs found themselves down 13 points with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Then Holmes and the running game found its traction. Spurred by a Duane Clemons strip-sack and fumble recovery, Holmes rushed for two touchdowns in 61 seconds, going 26 and 15 yards respectively. Kansas City led by one point with eight minutes remaining. After each team scored, the Browns took a 39-37 lead with four seconds left. On the final play, Dwayne Rudd thought he sacked Green at midfield and threw his helmet in celebration. Right tackle John Tait has scooped up the fumble and ran it deep into Cleveland territory with time expiring.
However, Rudd’s helmet throw was a personal foul, allowing for one untimed down. This gave kicker Morten Anderson a chance to kick the winning field goal with no time remaining, beating a stunned Cleveland team.
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