December 29, 2002 – Atlanta Falcons vs. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns 24 – Atlanta Falcons 16
Week 17 of the 2002 NFL Season saw the Cleveland Browns in an unfamiliar position. In his second season as the team’s head coach, Butch Davis had the Browns in position to make the playoffs for the first time since returning in 1999.
To get there, they would have to beat the 9-5-1 Atlanta Falcons who were being led by quarterback Michael Vick.
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On their first drive of the game, quarterback Tim Couch led the Browns down the field. The drive stalled out but kicker Phil Dawson put the Browns on top 3-0. That score held until the middle of the second quarter when running back William Green ran 21 yards to put the Browns up 10-0. The Falcons would score a touchdown of their own and the Browns took a 10-7 lead to the locker room.
A Kelly Holcomb interception on the first drive of the second half gave the Falcons good field position that they promptly turned into another three points. Holcomb had entered the game for the injured Couch in the second quarter.
Another turnover on the next drive set the Falcons up for yet another field goal. In an “only in Cleveland” moment, Holcomb threw yet another interception on the Browns third drive. The Browns defense bowed up again. However, those three turnovers on three consecutive possessions gave the Falcons a 16-10 lead entering the final quarter.
With about 9 minutes left in the game, the Browns forced a turnover of their own and got the ball at the Atlanta 11-yard line. Holcomb made the turnover stand up with a 15-yard touchdown pass that put the Browns up 17-16.
The game was still in the balance when the Browns got the ball on their next possession. That drive ended with Jim Donovan’s signature call “Run William, Run!” as William Green ran 64 yards for his second touchdown of the game.
Of course, everything is earned in Cleveland and this game was no different. It took a goal-line stand by the Cleveland Browns defense for the Browns to earn their one and only playoff spot in the expansion era.