Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dawson's famous kick changes NFL rules

March 29, 2008

By Tony Grossi

As the Browns gain respect on the field, their games take on just a little more prominence with NFL rules-makers.

The Browns were involved in two high-profile game situations last season that contributed to the discussion of rules changes. One change would make field goals allowable to be reviewed by instant replay and another would eliminate the force-out rule.

When coaches filled out their annual surveys about potential changes or concerns and the league competition committee analyzed them to formulate proposals, the Browns players who kept popping up on the video reviews were Phil Dawson and Kellen Winslow.

Dawson, of course, kicked one of the most famous field goals in recent NFL history at the end of regulation time against Baltimore on Nov. 18.

Field officials originally were split on the 51-yard kick -- one signaled no good and another demurred. The Ravens danced off the field in celebration. Browns coach Romeo Crennel shook hands with Ravens coach Brian Billick, thinking his team had lost.

But the call was reversed after referee Pete Morelli had a lengthy discussion with the two officials stationed under the goalposts. He also conferred with the NFL communicator in the replay booth.

Supposedly, Morelli was asking whether or not the play was subject to replay review, and was told it was not. To this day, team officials in Baltimore believe that Morelli was told to reverse the call because replays clearly showed that Dawson's kick cleared the crossbar before bouncing off the gooseneck support bar -- the Dawson Bar -- and caroming back through the posts.

If Morelli would have followed the letter of the law and not allowed the game-tying field goal, the Browns would have had no recourse to challenge it.

The new rule would allow most field goals -- but not all of them -- to be reviewed.

"You would be allowed to review any kick that involves going under or over the crossbar, and inside or outside of the upright," said Rich McKay, Atlanta Falcons president and co-chair of the rules committee. "The only kicks that would not be deemed reviewable is if the officials determine the ball had gone over the top of the upright, then like college, where they have specifically excluded that from review, so would we."

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