Monday, November 29, 2010

Dawson boots another game winner

By Brian Dulik

November 29th, 2010

CLEVELAND — The Browns have shown no inclination to extend Phil Dawson’s contract, which expires at the end of the season.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink that position.

Dawson made his 13th career game-winning field goal — splitting the uprights from 41 yards out with 2:42 left in regulation — to give Cleveland a 24-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

“Phil is the best kicker in the league, plain and simple, and the best I’ve ever played with,” said punter Reggie Hodges, who also serves as Dawson’s holder.

“I spent a year in New York, where the winds are kind of tricky, but this is the toughest spot in the NFL to kick. It’s just amazing how well he knows the conditions here and how to respond to them.”

Dawson, who joined the Browns as a rookie free agent in 1999, is 9-of-10 (90 percent) on home field goal attempts this season. The six visiting teams at Cleveland Browns Stadium are just 12-of-19 (63 percent).

The latter figure includes a 3-of-5 performance by Panthers kicker John Kasay, whose 42-yard try as time expired clanged off the left upright — and allowed Cleveland to escape with the one-point triumph.

“(Kasay) is a good kicker, but not every kicker can be Phil Dawson,” Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs said. “Phil is like Old Faithful. We know he’s going to get the job done.”

Ironically, Dawson said he wasn’t sure he was going convert his game-winning attempt. He had missed two field goals in Jacksonville one week earlier and had only been called upon to try three extra points against Carolina.

“I was certainly uncomfortable because I hadn’t touched the ball in the second half (on a kickoff, extra point or field goal),” said Dawson, whose .831 career field goal percentage ranks ninth in NFL history. “The field also was an issue today with the lack of footing, and the ball was just kind of dying in the air.”

Making the try even more tenuous, Ryan Pontbriand’s snap to Hodges was high, but he fielded it cleanly and placed it down in time for Dawson to keep his normal rhythm.

“That’s when you’ve got to trust your preparation and ignore your emotions,” Dawson said. “Reggie did a great job on the hold and I was fortunate to get it in.”

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