December 30, 2002
CLEVELAND -- They won and waited. And then, the Browns were forced to wait some more before they could celebrate.
After taking nearly every game this season down to the final excruciating seconds, Cleveland, and its playoffs chances, had to survive three hours of sudden death. Could there be any other way?
Rookie William Green ran for 178 yards and scored on a 64-yard run with 3:53 left Sunday, giving the Browns a 24-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
But Cleveland's first postseason berth since 1994 wasn't secured until hours later, when the Jets beat Green Bay.
"This is just how our season has been," receiver Quincy Morgan said. "Everything hanging from a thread."
The Browns went from an expansion team to the playoffs in four years. The franchise moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens in 1996, and Cleveland was awarded an expansion team in 1999, and the league ruled that the Browns' records and history would belong to the new team.
Also appropriate for this crazy season, the Falcons lost and made it to the playoffs anyway. Atlanta backed into the NFC playoffs as a wild card when New Orleans lost at home to Carolina. Atlanta last appeared in the postseason in 1998, when it went to the Super Bowl.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't get the job done ourselves," Falcons coach Dan Reeves said.
Browns linebacker Earl Holmes stopped Warrick Dunn at the 1 on fourth and goal with 23 seconds left and Cleveland ran out the clock for its biggest win since returning to the league.
The Browns won without quarterback Tim Couch, who broke his right leg in the first half and despite committing four turnovers.
Cleveland's players went to the locker room having done all they could, but they had to wait for the final score from New England, where the Dolphins and Patriots went to overtime.
When Adam Vinatieri's 35-yard field goal went through early in overtime to give the Patriots a 27-24 win, the Browns were forced to wait.
Holcomb, who looked rusty in his first appearance since Oct. 6, threw a 15-yard score to Kevin Johnson to put the Browns up 17-16 with 6:58 left.
Green gave Cleveland breathing room when he busted through a pile at the line of scrimmage and went down the right side for his second score.
Holcomb went 7-of-14 for 86 yards and threw two interceptions in the third quarter to set up Atlanta scores.