Thursday, November 20, 2008

Calm, quiet kicker lets foot do talking

By Patrick McManamon

November 18, 2008

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.: He's the quietest player on the team, and he has been with the Browns longer than any other.

He has seen all kinds of defeats, and he has been through all kinds of trials and tribulations along with his team.

But Monday night in a game that went back and forth and up and down and all around, Phil Dawson gave the Browns a badly needed win in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Dawson drilled a 56-yard field goal with 1:39 left to give the Browns a 29-27 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

He didn't just make that long kick.

He demolished it, sending it right down the middle and well over the crossbar for a career-long kick to remember.

It was not an easy win. The Browns gave the Bills many chances, the last when Ryan Lindell tried a game-winner from 47 yards away with 38 seconds left.

Lindell's kick missed.

Dawson's didn't.

Just like the other four he made Monday night.

Which means that for the season, Dawson has made 22 kicks and missed just two, both longer than 50 yards.

This 56-yarder never was in doubt. One of the team's true pros made it, straight and pure.

How fitting for Dawson, a good guy and a pro who shows up every day to just do his job.

Dawson does not get into histrionics. He just does his job as well as anyone at his position in the league. And the Bills know it well — last year, Dawson made a near-impossible 49-yard kick in a blizzard against the Bills. Monday night, he made a 56-yarder on a cold night.

He kicks in lousy weather, on bad fields. And he just makes his kicks.

Clutch, anyone?

Dawson had help in the win, of course.

Brady Quinn completed just enough passes to give Dawson a chance. And Dawson had help from little-used Jerome Harrison.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Harrison took a toss left and zipped through a crease to score from 72 yards and give the Browns a 23-13 lead.

Harrison's speed and quickness are in stark contrast to Jamal Lewis' style, and the surprising thing is that Harrison wasn't used sooner.

Either that or it was perfect timing to use him when the Browns did.

Harrison's run changed the momentum, but not for long.

The Bills followed with a kickoff return for a touchdown.

This was the order of the night. The Browns would get ahead, then let the Bills back. The Browns had leads of 13-0, 23-13 and 26-20 dissipate. They almost lost, but they didn't.

Instead, they showed they have some fight — and life — left this season.

Not for the playoffs, mind you, but for the general welfare and well being of the team and its fans — and its coach.

A team that likes its coach and wants to keep him does not sit back when a teammate accuses some players of quitting.

It fights.

The Browns fought, and because they fought, they beat the Bills.

It was not easy — mainly because they forgot how to tackle.

The Browns' defense let the Bills turn the short dump-off pass into an art form. Time and again, they threw short to a back who broke one, two, three tackles and ran for a first down.

Their defense plays defensively, despite the near immeasurable efforts of Shaun Rogers. And it cannot stop the run.

The Browns gave up 186 rushing yards to the Bills, who averaged 4.9 yards per carry. The Bills often seemed to blow through a nonexistent line before being touched.

If Rogers did not make the stop, well nobody did. Not until the ball carrier was six or seven yards downfield at least.

And letting the Bills back into things when the Browns had a chance to grab hold of the game is a cardinal sin. In the NFL, when a team has another down, it needs to take a hatchet to the Gatorade buckets.

Bottom line: In the fourth quarter, on the road, when the Browns needed plays to win, they came up with them.

In the first quarter, someone held up a makeshift tombstone that appeared on the video board.

It read: ''R.I.P. Browns.''

Predictable? Yes.

Silly? Sure.

Accurate? Not this Monday night. Because in the end a 56-yard kick was good, which makes all the negatives and concerns a little easier to accept.

Thanks to the ever-dependable and reliable Phil Dawson.

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