Monday, October 31, 2011

Making a strong case for Phil Dawson as MVP


By Terry Pluto

October 31, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO -- Scribbles in my notebook after the Browns' 20-10 loss in San Francisco:

I'd like to see the no-huddle offense given a real try, and some screen passes. But I also know that suddenly thinking the Browns can fire the ball downfield is not being realistic.

Maybe Montario Hardesty's calf injury isn't a big deal. But let's face it, durability has been a problem for him. Prior to last season's knee surgery, he had knee and other injury issues at Tennessee before rushing for 1,345 yards as a senior. He carried the ball 33 times for 95 yards in the Browns' 6-3 victory over Seattle on Oct. 23, but was gone after two carries Sunday.

Phil Dawson kicked a 52-yard field goal and is a career best 4-of-4 on field goals of at least 50 yards this season. He is 10-of-10 in field goals when they aren’t blocked, and a strong case can be made for him being the MVP so far this season.

After two dismal performances, the special teams were very good. San Francisco's Ted Ginn's longest return was for 22 yards. Brad Maynard did a super job with his directional punting, keeping the ball high and near the sidelines. Joshua Cribbs' had a 31-yard kickoff return (second-longest allowed by the 49ers this season), and his 17-yard punt return was the longest given up by Brad Seely's unit.

Dawson said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor surprised and pleased the players when he showed a 15-minute video on Saturday night ... not of their mistakes, or of the 49ers... "but of the things we did well this season. It reminded us that we can be pretty good when we do the little things."

D'Qwell Jackson not only had three goal-line stops, but the linebacker had five tackles for losses. But the Browns could manage only one quarterback hit (by Brian Schaefering) and one sack (Phil Taylor) on Alex Smith, who had lots of time to throw. Part of the reason was Frank Gore and an effective power running game -- 39 carries producing 174 yards.

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