Friday, November 30, 2012

For Lonesome Phil Dawson, it's always been lonely at the top

Lonesome Phil, still kicking: For the vast majority of Phil Dawson’s 14 NFL seasons, inept offenses made him the league’s most underused kicker.

By Tony Grossi
November 30, 2012

Touchdowns have been scarce on his Browns teams, so he generally had the fewest extra points, field goals and kickoffs at his position. For those reasons, I nicknamed him Lonesome Phil long ago.

The moniker is more appropriate than ever.

Dawson is 24th among the 32 regular kickers with 20 point-after attempts. He has made them all, of course. More importantly, he has made every one of his 21 field goal tries – the only kicker this year who has been statistically perfect.

In addition, Dawson not only is the only player from the Browns’ expansion start-up year of 1999 still on the roster, he is the only one still active in the league.

One of his original teammates, Lomas Brown, is on the ballot for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Two others – Orlando Brown and Orlando Bobo – have died.

So his underuse and his longevity make Dawson Lonesome Phil. But there’s yet another reason the nickname applies. In the first batch of fan balloting for this year’s Pro Bowl, Dawson’s name is nowhere to be found.

Another injustice: Dawson has made 27 consecutive field goals dating to last season, matching his career-best streak. Philadelphia’s Alex Henery has the next-longest active streak at 18.

Sunday in Oakland, where torrential rains and high winds are forecast, Dawson will match accuracy and length with Sebastian Janikowski, the Raiders’ hefty lefty, who happens to be leading the fan vote for AFC kickers.

Janikowski’s only miss among 24 attempts was a 64-yarder on Oct. 21. Janikowski doesn’t miss many meals at 257 pounds, or many long field goals. He co-holds the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal a year ago. And yet, over the last two seasons, Dawson beats Janikowski in long-distance accuracy. Dawson is a league-high 12 of 13 on field goals of 50 or more yards. Janikowski is second at 10 of 14.

But when Dawson recounts his amazing strength and accuracy at the age of 37, he is most proud of his length on kickoffs and career-high number of touchbacks. Unfounded criticism of his kickoffs always has rankled him.

“We’re No. 1 in kickoff coverage – with eight rookies covering,” Dawson said. “I think 11 were my most (touchbacks) ever. Our opponents only have 16 so far this year. We have 19. I always keep track of those things.

“I’ve always said you can’t compare numbers when you play in certain climates compared to others. Even touchback to touchback. Some teams have twice as many touchdowns as us. (Janikowski) has 30 touchbacks.”

Plagued by bad offenses, Dawson has excelled as the league’s best outdoor kicker in one of the most difficult home venues for a long time. He shouldn’t have to be perfect to gain traction for the Pro Bowl, but even now he is being overlooked by fans in the early vote totals on

The top five vote-getters are Janikowski, Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, Denver’s Matt Prater and Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham. The players' and coaches' votes, which count two-thirds towards the total, are cast later this month.

Dawson is hoping their votes will send him to his first Pro Bowl berth.

“It’s always been a goal,” he told me. “It certainly isn’t a make or break event to make me feel good about my career, but anytime you can accomplish a goal it’s a good feeling. To be close many times and not get it, I think, would probably make me enjoy it a little more, if that day every does come.

“I can only do what I do. I know the feedback I get from other players and coaches from around the league is extremely positive, so that’s encouraging. When you can earn the respect of those people, that’s what you’re really hoping for.”

Is this his last year in Cleveland?: Numbers-crunching CEO Joe Banner arrives in Cleveland at a pivotal time in Dawson’s career.

For two years, Browns GM Tom Heckert has been unable to negotiate a multi-year contract with Dawson’s agent, Neil Cornrich, of Beachwood. The Browns used the franchise tag – for the first time in their expansion era – on Dawson for two years in a row. Now they face a crossroads.

The fine print of the new NFL collective bargaining agreement allows for a financial windfall for a player if he is tagged three years in a row. Dawson would receive the franchise number for quarterbacks – expected to be over $15 million -- if the Browns tagged him again.

That’s cost-prohibitive, of course, so Banner would have to try his luck with Cornrich on a multi-year deal, or Dawson would leave in free agency. In an interview with ESPNCleveland two weeks ago, Banner was noncommittal on re-signing Dawson.

Dawson has been the Browns’ longest-tenured player, but also their most consistently good player, since 1999. There are five games to go, and it would be fitting for him to go out as the league’s only perfect kicker. For Dawson, it always has been lonely at the top.

Big Ten Championship notes

By Tom Dienhart

November 30, 2012

Injuries are a key factor in any game, and this game is no different. Nebraska will miss the presence of tackle Baker Steinkuhler on the interior of the defensive line. The Huskers need Chase Rome—among others—to step up with Steinkuhler out. And center Justin Jackson is out. It will be Mark Pelini or Cole Pensick at center.

In other news, Wisconsin got good news this week when linebacker Chris Borland was cleared to play after hurting a hamstring against Indiana on Nov. 10, forcing him to miss the last two games. His presence will be key in trying to slow down a strong Nebraska rushing attack. The Badgers also will have wideout Jared Abbrederis, who has dealt with a concussion.

Wisconsin has not lost a game in the state of Indiana since 2002. Under head coach Bret Bielema, the Badgers are 8-0 in the Indiana, with an average margin of victory of 23.8 points.
The Badgers have struggled in close games, with their five losses coming by a combined 19 points. And Wisconsin’s last three losses have come in overtime. The last team to drop three overtime games in a season? The 2007 SMU Mustangs. Iowa State went 0-3 in OT games in 2005. Wisconsin last played three overtime games in a season in 2000, going 1-2.
Since the first meeting with Nebraska, Montee Ball is averaging 153.6 rushing yards per game. Since Oct. 1. that is second-best among running backs in the country. In two career games against Nebraska, Montee Ball has run for 244 yards and seven touchdowns.
A Wisconsin win in this game and a UCLA victory in the Pac-12 title game would set up a rematch of a Sept. 8 game at the Rose Bowl between the teams. The Bruins won, 36-30, notching 653 yards. It was the second most yards Nebraska ever had allowed in a game in school annals.
These teams met earlier in the Big Ten opener for each back on Sept. 29 in Lincoln. On that night, the Cornhuskers rallied from a 17-point deficit to pull out a 30-27 victory.
Nebraska hasn’t won a conference title since claiming the Big 12 championship in 1999. A victory on Saturday night would be the school’s fifth title in a different league. Nebraska also has captured titles in the Big 12, Missouri Valley, Big 6 and Big 8. In all, the Huskers have won 43 league championships.
Nebraska leads the series with Wisconsin, 4-3.
Bo Pelini and Bret Bielema played against each other while in college. Pelini was a defensive back for Ohio State (1987-90), while Bielema was a defensive lineman for Iowa (1989-92). Also, Pelini and Bielema share the same agent in powerful Cleveland, Ohio-based Neil Cornrich.
The Huskers’ seven conference wins are their most since 2001, when they also won seven and played for the BCS title in the Rose Bowl, losing to Miami (Fla.).
Nebraska has won six games in a row, its longest overall winning streak since a six-game streak spanning the 2009 and 2010 seasons and longest conference winning streak since winning its final five regular-season Big 12 games in 2009 and the Big 12 opener in 2010.
The Badgers seek to become the first Big Ten school to play in three consecutive Rose Bowl games since Michigan appeared in Pasadena from 1977-79.

Kendricks Filling Many Roles

November 30, 2012

By Nick Wagoner

Unsure if he was even going to play because of a knee injury that limited him in practice last week, Rams tight end Lance Kendricks not only played but contributed in important fashion to the team’s win against Arizona.

Included in Kendricks’ performance was a 37-yard touchdown catch in which he got open over the middle and delivered a vicious stiff arm to safety Kerry Rhodes as he rolled to the end zone for his second career touchdown catch.

That was it for Kendricks in terms of his contribution in the aerial attack but right now, it’s everything he’s doing, especially as a blocker, that has coach Jeff Fisher excited about his progress.

“He’s really improved,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s very, very strong at the point of attack. That’s why we’re using some of the wham blocks on the defensive linemen. He’s very effective there. He’s getting open. He’s completing the catch and he’s running after the catch, so it’s good to see him progressing like that.”

With injuries all along the offensive line early in the season, Kendricks’ role as a blocker has expanded while he hasn’t been as prominent as a receiver. He embraced that role and provided a solid blocker attached to the line of scrimmage.

In recent weeks, Kendricks has showed his versatility by moving into the backfield and working as a de facto fullback capable of lead blocking when necessary.

Checking in at 6’3, 243 pounds, Kendricks doesn’t necessarily look the part of a dominant blocker but his strength more than makes up for what he lacks in size. Combine that with his willingness to do whatever it takes to be on the field and Kendricks is the offense’s premiere Swiss Army Knife right now.

“I have embraced it,” Kendricks said. “Each week is different and I take on different challenges and different roles but I do a lot of things from the backfield but I take it as it comes and I try to excel in it so I can do something better and have a different challenge every week. I don’t mind playing fullback and lining up in the backfield.”

For Kendricks, his more recent turn as a fullback isn’t uncharted territory. In college at Wisconsin, Kendricks played under offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who actually employs a system similar to the one used by Rams offense coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Kendricks didn’t do much of it in last year’s offense but it’s been a bit like riding a bike for him as he gets used to being in the backfield again.

As evidence of that, Kendricks even goes so far as to say that he would take a powerful block – like the one that sprung running back Steven Jackson for a touchdown against San Francisco – as quick as he’d take a touchdown catch like the one from last week.

“It’s about the same,” Kendricks said. “If you do a good job at the point of attack, especially on running plays, I think that’s just as noticed as a touchdown or something like that.”

Because of Kendricks’ extended work as a blocker, he hasn’t been as involved in the passing game but that could change over the season’s final five weeks.

Buoyed by an offensive line that may not need as much help now that the original starting five is working together for the first time since the season opener, Kendricks believes he could be more of a threat in the passing game, especially when his knee is fully healed.

“I think each week as we get guys healthy, we got Scott (Wells) back last week, that opens up opportunities for me to maybe make some more plays down the field such as the one last week and hopefully more to come,” Kendricks said. “I was a little limited last week because of the knee so I really couldn’t get as involved in the passing game as I would have liked. Hopefully this week I will be feeling better and I can run a few more routes.”

No matter how the Rams choose to use him, Kendricks is in a far different place than he was a year ago as a rookie. Brimming with belief that he can be an impact player in the league on a consistent basis, he believes he’s starting to round into the type of all around tight end that winning teams all seem to have.

“I think I’m in a good place,” Kendricks said. “I have a really good understanding of the offense and what we try to accomplish every week. I think I am a lot more confident mentally and I think I am better prepared in general this year than last year.”

Henery one of few bright spots in dark season

Alex Henery has converted 35 of his last 36 field goal attempts with the Eagles.

By Reuben Frank

November 29, 2012

You can’t blame Alex Henery.

There’s a very short list of Philadelphia Eagles who can look themselves in the mirror and feel like they’ve done all they could during this wretched 2012 season.

DeMeco Ryans. Evan Mathis. LeSean McCoy. Fletcher Cox. Hmmm. We said it was a very short list.

No doubt Henery would be on there, though.

It’s pretty lame when your team MVP could be a 175-pound placekicker, but Henery has been nearly perfect this year and really since he got here as a rookie fourth-round pick out of Nebraska last year.

“Just been hitting the ball well,” Henery said. “I feel like we’ve been in a real good rhythm with Mat (McBriar, holder) and Jon (Dorenbos, snapper). So I’ve been happy with how I’m hitting it, and it’s been going through.”

Henery missed his second field goal attempt on opening day in Cleveland and has made 19 straight kicks since, breaking the franchise record of 17 consecutive field goals set by David Akers during his 2001 Pro Bowl season and matched last year by Henery.

Is it the longest streak of his life?

Good luck finding out from Henery.

“Honestly, I really don’t know,” he said. “I don’t really pay attention to all that stuff. I don’t remember my stats very well.

“It’s just one of those things where … your stats will be there in the end if you’re doing well and you’re doing your job.”

Henery converted his last 16 kicks last year, which means he’s made 35 of his last 36 field goals, which is 97 percent.

Let’s take a closer look at Henery’s season and career so far:

• He’s made 44 of 48 field goal attempts as an Eagle, for 91.7 percent. He doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify for the all-time leaders – the NFL requires kickers to make 100 field goals before they can be considered for record purposes – but based on guys who’ve made 25 or more field goals, he’s the most accurate kicker ever, just ahead of Dallas’s Dan Bailey, who the Eagles will see Sunday night. Bailey is 54 for 61 for 88.5 percent.

• Henery has made 20 of 21 kicks this year, which is 95.2 percent accuracy. If the season ended today, that would be the 12th-highest figure in NFL history.

• After making an NFL-rookie-record 88.5 percent of his kicks last year, Henery is on pace to become the first kicker in history to make 88 percent of his kicks in each of his first two NFL seasons.

• Henery is the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, going 68 for 76. That means since leaving high school, he’s 112 for 124, or 90.3 percent. He made 18 of 19 as a senior at Nebraska, so he’s 62 for 67 over the past three years (92.5 percent).

• Henery is 13 for 14 (92.9 percent) in the crucial 40-to-49-yard range.

And how much does all this stuff mean to him?

Henery is non-plussed when asked about his consecutive field goal record. He’s non-plussed about pretty much everything.

“That’s not one of those things that I look at,” he said. “It’s a cool honor, but I have to concentrate on the next kick, not the last one.

“To me, none of that matters. As long as I’m doing the job, I’m happy.”

While Henery was chatting with a couple writers before practice Thursday, special teamer Colt Anderson walked over and said, “Hey, can you guys please get Alex to the Pro Bowl?”

That will be up to the fans, coaches and players around the league, but Henery has a shot.

Henery leads the NFC at 95.2 percent, with Vikings kicker Blair Walsh and Bailey next at 92.3 percent (24 for 26) and 91.7 percent (22 for 24), although they both play in domes.

David Akers went to five Pro Bowls during his 12 years with the Eagles and a sixth last year with the 49ers.

“It’d be really cool,” Henery said. “I think I’m still young maybe for that. I don’t know. It’s one of those things, until it happens, I won’t believe it.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

St. Michael Star Matt Spaeth Shines in Bears Win over Vikings

In his second season as a Chicago Bear, the workmanlike effort from the former STMA football star is winning over fans in the Midway.

By Mike Schoemer

November 28, 2012

Former St. Michael-Albertville football and basketball standout Matt Spaeth picked a great time to make a "highlight reel" catch.

On a key drive for the Chicago Bears in the second half, Spaeth broke for the corner of the end zone and dove for a 13-yard pass from Jay Cutler, hanging on to make it a 25-3 lead for the home squad.

The catch–and Spaeth’s success in helping shore up a battered Bears offensive line–is earning the hometown favorite some praise both in Chicago and here in the Twin Cities.

Longtime scribe Sid Hartman cornered Spaeth after Sunday’s win, which put the Bears two games clear of the Vikes in the NFC North standings, to ask him about the play and the Bears’ season.

Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune columnist and ESPN radio host, said the catch took him back to a 2001 playoff game in St. Michael when the Knights topped Class 4A powerhouse Hutchinson.

And the AP captured Spaeth’s catch in front of Vikings’ safety Jamarca Sanford, showing him struggling to keep his body inbounds to make the play.

Finally, the Chicago Daily Herald awarded the tight end one of its “Game Balls” for the key play.

Columnist Mike Spellman wrote:

“[Brandon] Marshall will have a ton more opportunities down the road and the same might not be said for tight end Matt Spaeth. So, for your tremendous catch in the end zone which broke the game open, Matt Spaeth, this game ball’s for you.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Streak Of Historic Proportions

November 27, 2012

By Patrick Wall

Kicker Alex Henery has quietly been putting together an impressive career with the Eagles. Last season, he set a team and NFL rookie record by hitting 88.9 percent of his field goals. Henery continued rewriting the team history books on Monday night.

After connecting on three field goals, Henery has hit 19 in a row, an Eagles record that he previously shared with David Akers. Henery has been nearly automatic throughout his career, connecting on 44 of 48 field goals since last season. Over the last two seasons, Henery has become the second-most accurate kicker in the league, trailing only Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee. This year, Henery has missed just one field goal attempt.

The conditions Monday night were ideal. Plus, Henery works with two former Pro Bowl selections, long snapper Jon Dorenbos and punter/holder Mat McBriar.

"Today I hit everything in pregame; I don’t think I missed even one. I hit the ball well today and our rhythm was good," said Henery, who was successful from 36, 41 and 45 yards. "A lot of credit goes to Jon and Mat for making things smooth. There is a lot more that goes into it than just me kicking it."

When asked about his accomplishment, Henery was unfazed. Such is the life of a kicker.
"That is not one of those things I look at," he said. "It’s a cool honor, but I have to concentrate on the next kick, not the last one.

"This is a team sport, so how the team does is more important than how an individual does. I just do what I can, but we have to get the win. That is what matters."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Statue for Phil Dawson

From "Browns-Steelers: Plain Dealer staff predictions"

November 25, 2012

Bud Shaw

Record: 7-3

Browns 12 Steelers 10.

Preliminary plans announced after the game for the Phil Dawson statue.

Local Residents Guests Of Kansas City Coach As Denver Beats The Chiefs

A group of North Escambia area residents were the guests of Kansas City Chiefs defensive coach Anthony Pleasant Sunday in Kansas City as the Chiefs lost to the Broncos.

November 26, 2012

When the Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in Kansas City, several North Escambia area residents were on hand to cheer on the Chiefs. And they were cheering for defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant, a Century native.

Mikey Burkett, Kenny Fehl, Anthony Pleasant, Jonathan Bondurant, Steve Stanton and Eddie Hammond started with a pheasant hunting trip in Kansas on Saturday. On Sunday morning, they were guests at Pleasant’s home before heading to Arrow Head Stadium in Kansas City for the game.

After an early lead a strong defense, the KC Chiefs were unable to outlast the AFC-West leading Denver Brocos, who defeated the Chiefs 17-9.

Kansas City, now 1-10, will play for that elusive home win next week against the Carolina Panthers, who are in Philadelphia on Monday night to face off against the Eagles.

Pleasant, a 1986 graduate of Century High School, earned two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots.

Pleasant was selected in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. During his 14 year NFL career, Pleasant played for the Browns, the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. He played a total of 202 NFL games and racked up 58 sacks.

The 22-acre Anthony Pleasant Park on East Highway 4 in Century is named after the two-time Super Bowl champ and includes a full-size football field with bleachers, press box and a playground.

Pleasant speaks in July 2011 at the dedication of the park named in his honor in Century.

Rams TE Kendricks coming on strong

St. Louis Rams' Lance Kendricks (88) fends off Arizona Cardinals' Kerry Rhodes (25) for a touchdown during the first half in an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. Photo: Ross D. Franklin / AP

By Dan Arkush

November 21, 2012

In the midst of a significant team-wide slump, our Rams sources agree that one of the few positives has been the steady improvement of second-year TE Lance Kendricks, who has become a valuable force both as a receiver and as a blocker.

It’s Kendricks’ sudden blocking expertise — which last season seemed to be surprisingly lacking from a player coming out of the University of Wisconsin, a school known for cranking out quality run blockers — that has stood out the most in his sophomore season.

So much so that the team deemed Brit Miller, the only pure fullback on the roster, expendable with the need to open up a roster spot for Scott Wells, fresh off the injured reserve/designated for return list and reportedly ready and raring to finally settle into the team’s starting center role.

Kendricks and newly promoted TE Cory Harkey will be expected to in effect share FB-type duties moving forward.

“He’s really stood out as a blocker, especially in the tie against the Niners,” one daily team observer said of Kendricks. “On the first TD in the game by (RB Steven) Jackson, he just totally wiped out (49ers NT) Isaac Sopoaga.”

But the strides Kendricks continues to make as a receiver, consistently catching more than 70 percent of the passes thrown in his direction (he has between 2-4 catches each of the last five games), should not be overlooked, as he poses an increasingly versatile cog for an offense that remains a real work in progress.

“If you throw the ball his way, he usually brings it down,” the observer said. "He’s fast, but he’s not Vernon Davis fast, and he still needs to do a better job gaining yards after the catch. But the key drops that he made as a rookie are all but gone. His hands have become a lot more dependable.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Oh Henery

November 19, 2012


The following notes were compiled by the Eagles media relations department following the Eagles' 31-6 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Nick's Notes - QB Nick Foles made his first-career start, becoming the first Eagles quarterback to do so since Donovan McNabb on 11/14/99 vs. Washington. His 204 passing yards were the most by an Eagles rookie in his first start since Randall Cunningham's 211 on 9/15/85 vs. LA Rams ... His 21 completions were the third-highest total ever by an Eagles rookie ... Foles became the eighth first-year player to start for the Eagles this season

Offensive Quick Hits - The offense has scored on their first possession of the second half in nine straight games (four touchdowns, five field goals) ... WR DeSean Jackson has 273 career receptions for 4,774 yards. His reception total is tied with Mike Quick for the most ever by an Eagle in his first five seasons and he needs just 30 more yards to surpass him in that category as well ... RB LeSean McCoy had a season-high 67 receiving yards ...WR Riley Cooper tied a career high with five receptions.

Oh Henery - K Alex Henery has made 16 field goals in a row, which the fourth-longest streak in team history and the second-longest current streak behind Cleveland's Phil Dawson (25).

Defensive Nuggets - The Eagles are the only team in the NFL that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season ... DT Fletcher Cox and DE Trent Cole split a sack. Cole now has 70 in his career ... DE Jason Babin also recorded a sack and leads the team with 4.5 this season.

Game-winner flat out satisfying for Bucs' Clark

Bucs teammates lift tight end Dallas Clark into the air while celebrating the game-winning score in overtime.


November 18, 2012

As he made his cut up the field toward the end zone on what proved to be the final play of the game Sunday, Buccaneers tight end Dallas Clark heard Panthers linebacker James Anderson utter a few words you can't print in a newspaper.

That's when Clark knew he was about to score the winning touchdown in the Bucs 27-21 overtime victory at Bank of America Stadium.

"When you hear the linebacker say what he said – and I won't repeat everything he said there – it's a great feeling,'' Clark said, "because that's when you know you've got him, and the rest is really just finishing off the play."

What Clark finished off with his 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Freeman was one of the most improbable victories of the season.

It came after the Bucs turned the ball over three times and fell behind by 11 points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, but that was what made it so satisfying, Clark said.

"This was a huge win for us because we got away with learning a lesson here,'' he said. "We learned the lesson today that we can't just show up and expect to win football games.

"We did not play well today. Where we want to go, that's not good enough. But to come back like that and rally, that's not the kind of stuff you can learn in practice. That's needs to be done on a Sunday, so that was special.''

It was particularly special for Clark, the 10-year veteran out of Iowa who spent the previous nine seasons playing with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Clark hauled in 440 passes, including 47 for touchdowns, with the Colts – none a walk-off, game-winner in overtime.

"That's kind of weird, really, but then again, when you think about it, it's not that often that you're in a position to make that kind of play,'' Clark said. "I'm just glad I was able to make it today.''

It was the sell job he did on the pass route that made it happen. Clark started off running toward the left sideline, as if he was going to run into the flat. After about four yards, though, he cut up the field.

"That's when I heard (Anderson) say what he said,'' said Clark, whose final catch of the day gave him a team-high seven receptions for 58 yards – both season highs for Clark. "After that, you've just got to finish."

Clark credited Josh Freeman for a great throw. Freeman gave all the credit to Clark for "doing such a great job of selling that flat route."

The one thing both could agree on was how big a play it was and how big the victory was.

"It was huge,'' Clark said. "A great team win in which a lot of guys made some huge plays when we really needed them.
There was a point in this one, we weren't playing well, and we needed to wake up. But we were able to do that and we made some plays down the stretch, which is big for us.

"It's still early and we're not a great team. But you know what? The potential is there for us. We just have to keep it going and in the end we found a way to do that today.''

NC Sports clients Phil Dawson, Alex Henery leading NFL in consecutive field goals

From "Browns-Cowboys postgame notes"

November 18, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here are the postgame notes from Sunday's Browns-Cowboys game.

Kicker Phil Dawson converted on field goals from 51 and 37 yards to extend his consecutive field goal made streak to 25. He is 19 of 19 on field goals this season, including five from 50 yards or longer, which is tied for the most in the league this season. His streak of 25 consecutive field goals is the longest current streak in the NFL and is the second-longest streak of his career, trailing only his streak of 27 in-a-row] from 2003-04. Dawson has converted on at least 20 straight field goals four times during his career.

1. Phil Dawson (Cle.) 25
2. Alex Henery (Phi.) 16

3. Blair Walsh (Min.) 14

1. 2003-04 27
2. 2011-12 25
3. 2001-02 22
4. 2005- 20

at Cincinnati 9/6 50
at Baltimore 9/27 51
at Baltimore 9/27 50
at Baltimore 9/27 52
at Dallas 11/18 51

1. Phil Dawson (Cle.) 5 for 5
Greg Zuerlein (St.L.) 5 for 8
Blair Walsh (Min.) 5 for 5
4. Justin Tucker (Bal.) 4 for 4

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Longhorn Hall of Honor: Phil Dawson

The 56th Men's Hall of Honor class is to be inducted on Friday, Nov. 9. All-American placekicker Phil Dawson left UT with 13 school records to his name.

November 15, 2012

By John Byczek, Texas Media Relations

Texas Football fans scooted to the edge of their seats on Oct. 21, 1995, as a television announcer described what would become the deciding play against the University of Virginia.

“Three seconds left and here comes Dawson and company for what will be about a 50-yarder into the wind.”

UT’s sophomore kicker Phil Dawson ran onto the field, vigorously clapping his hands. With the eyes of Texas upon him, he knew what he had to do.

After a good snap and hold, the kick was on its way.

“This one may do it!” the announcer shouted. “It is good!”

As the ball soared through the uprights, time expired and the Longhorns were victorious, 17-16.

Instead of remembering it as the game where he booted the winning kick, Dawson remembers it as something much more special.

“I think the thing – and this will surprise a lot of people – that was most rewarding to me about that kick was that it resulted in the University of Texas’ 700th all-time win,” Dawson said. “That was quite the moment to be a part of. I’m just proud to be one of the many guys that was able to help win the game on that day.”

Dawson had a very successful career as kicker for the Texas Longhorns. He was an All-American who left UT with 13 records, including all-time marks for scoring (339), field goals (59) and field goal accuracy (74.7 percent).

On Friday, Nov. 9, Dawson will be inducted into the UT Men’s Athletics Hall of Honor.

“I don’t know that it’s fully sunk in yet. My dream as a kid was simply to get the chance to play at The University of Texas,” Dawson said. “To now have something in addition to that is almost too much for me to comprehend.”

Dawson finished his tenure at Texas ranked 16th on the NCAA all-time scoring list, 12th on the NCAA all-time kick-scoring chart and 31st on the NCAA all-time field goals made list. He nailed 15 consecutive field goals in 1996-97, setting a UT record. Dawson set another UT record by making six-straight field goals from 50 or more yards from 1995 to 1997. He also connected on 64.3 percent of field goals he attempted from 40 or more yards.

“To leave my mark, whether it was a school record or anything I was able to do there, is a privilege,” he said. “At a university that afforded me so many opportunities, to think that I contributed back in some small way means a lot to me.”

After the 1998 NFL draft, Dawson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders. As a free agent in 1999, he signed with the Cleveland Browns. He is now in his 14th NFL season with the Browns, is the only player left from the 1999 roster but is as accurate as ever.

Dawson says he has a very special bond with the Cleveland Browns fan base. In 2010, he passed the legendary Lou Groza for the Browns' career field-goal mark.

“Those are the things that make the countless hours spent preparing, training and dreaming about playing football all worth it,” Dawson stated. “I have tremendous respect for Mr. Groza – the kind of man he was and the player he was here. I’m just trying to live up to the standard that he set.”

Even though Dawson has had tremendous success kicking in Cleveland, he will never forget his Texas roots.

“I think one of the things I look back to enjoy the most is the fact that I got the chance to play for my home state and represent my home state,” he said. “To play for the namesake of your home state, to have your family and friends share it with you, I think that was the thing I enjoyed most. Being a part of the University of Texas football family is something that is very dear to me.”

“Just to wear that helmet, to wear those colors, to represent your home state, that was the privilege.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

St. Louis Rams: The Lance Kendricks Show

By Eric Nagel

November 14, 2012

After a string of dropped passes and opportunities, Lance Kendrick is finally starting to put things together, quietly turning into a reliable blocker and receiver.

It hasn't been an easy road for Lance Kendricks so far this year. He was expected to be a primary target in Brian Schottenheimer's offense; merely as a Dustin Keller clone if nothing else. At first, he struggled with catching the ball, souring his chance to become a legitimate threat for Sam Bradford.

Then Danny Amendola went down, and he started to take advantage of his opportunities. I'll be highlighting some key plays he made in the San Francisco game, but before we do, take a look at his numbers:

After looking at that table, you'll notice one thing- he really didn't do much in the first quarter of the season. Ten receptions for 88 yards off of 15 targets. Besides the Chicago game, he had a mere two targets every game. That isn't exactly someone who is featured prominently in the offense.

But then Amendola went down, and Kendricks stepped up:

Sure, he only had three more receptions (in one less game), 13 to be exact. Sure, he only had 125 yards (again, in one less game). Not only that, but he's getting nearly twice as many looks per game.

Given how inconsistent the team is on offense, it's startling to see how Kendricks has improved so quickly. His hands still may be an issue, but he's becoming an asset in the passing game. In fact, he was the second most targeted player with Amendola in the game against SF. He had a critical fourth down conversion, a twelve yard reception on a desperation pass by Sam Bradford and a clutch 17 yard grab, seen here:

This is a bang, bang play. Kendricks snags the ball, secures it, and then proceeds to get hit hard. This is by no means an easy catch, but he hauls it in anyway. These are the type of plays that drive the offense. Not every play has to be a home run, but when you have a tight end who can block, allowing the team to gain good yardage on the ground, then go out and snag a 17 yard completion, you have the makings of a dangerous offense. Kendricks is tall, strong and athletic. If he's a reliable option in your passing game, that creates mismatches. Mismatches are good.

While he isn't blowing up the stat sheets, 30-50 yards per game (480-800 yards a season for those wondering what a whole year would look like) is impressive for a second year tight end. It's even more impressive when you consider how stellar Kendricks has been while blocking. Check out his kick-out block against the 49ers, which helped propel Darryl Richardson to the longest run of the day (by either team, no less).

His block isn't the most dominating performance (from a visual perspective, at least to me), but it's clearly the best on the right side. It's also arguably the most important, because it allows Richardson to hit the hole at full speed, clearly his greatest strength, maximizing the run. It's fundamental, unsexy football. Make your blocks, catch passes. Kendricks has been doing both of these things well in recent weeks.

If Kendricks doesn't make that block, then Richardson doesn't get that 32 yard run, period. Plays like this add up. I know it doesn't look like he's playing up to his second round status, but he's making the most out of every play, catch or not. He also had a crucial block during Steven Jackson's touchdown run. People say the blocking isn't enough to justify his high draft pick, but they may want to think about it again after realizing how much he helped the team against the 49ers.

He may not be a top ten receiver like Danny Amendola, but his blocking ability and occasional receiving skills (that have markedly improved) have made him a reliable #2 option for Sam Bradford. You won't be confusing him with Jimmy Graham, but make no mistake, Kendricks is a featured member of this offense. The trouble is, you just don't realize how much of an impact he really makes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stoops passes Wilkinson on wins list

By John Shinn

November 12, 2012

NORMAN — With Saturday’s 42-34 victory over Baylor, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops surpassed legendary coach Bud Wilkinson (145-29-4) as the second winningest coach in the program’s history.

“What Coach Wilkinson and what he did here is absolutely amazing. The win streak is really just incredible. I don’t believe it will ever be touched again. The national championships, the sustained success for so long,” Stoops said. “Again, I don’t look at numbers to be honest with you; it’s just not me. I’m a long way from sitting in a rocking chair and reflecting on it.”

The victory lifted Stoops’ all-time record to 146-36. Barry Switzer remains OU’s winningest coach at 157-29-4.

Friday, November 09, 2012

In defense of the great Phil Dawson

November 9, 2012

From Craig Lyndall's "In defense of the great Phil Dawson"

Granted, Barnwell didn’t say anything about Phil Dawson and his abilities. He very well could have been speaking more to the value proposition of franchising a position like kicker where the return on investment is inconsistent. Then again, just in case he was besmirching the impeccably awesome name of Phil Dawson, I’ve prepared an over-reactive defense of everyone’s favorite Browns kicker. And honestly, why shouldn’t I considering the fact that pretty much every miss of Phil Dawson’s 2011 wasn’t his fault?

Let’s start with the stats. Phil Dawson was 24 for 29 in 2011 which is 82.8%. That tied him with Jason Hanson for 17th in the league in terms of field goal percentage. Dawson’s misses need additional exploration though, especially given the fact that the Browns ended up parting ways with long-snapper Ryan Pontbriand in the middle of the season.

Phil Dawson had a perfect season going until the sixth game of the season against Seattle. Dawson was 7-7 heading into the game against Charlie Whitehurst and the boys. He left the game 9-11 after not one, but two field goals were blocked by Red Bryant. As you’ll see in the pic below, he was pretty deep in the backfield too. Hard to blame Dawson for that.

Dawson then went perfect in San Francisco and Houston going three for three. Then, Dawson went four for five against the Rams. That one miss? Ryan Pontbriand rolled the snap to Brad Maynard. That field goal miss was catastrophic too by the way. The Browns lost that game 13-12.

Fast forward to the very next game against Jacksonville, Phil Dawson scowled at the referees as they called his field goal no good despite the fact that it appeared to go straight over the upright. Go ahead and hit Dawson for that one by leaving it in the judges hands, I guess. Usually Phil likes to put them right down the middle and he wasn’t able to do so on this day. Still, the evidence at least pushes it to the “controversial” category.

Finally, Phil missed a 55 yarder against the Bengals in a 23-20 loss. After the game, Ryan Pontbriand said, “It was a bad snap – really bad.” That was November 27th and Ryan Pontbriand was let go by the Browns two days later on the 29th. This is not to pile on Ryan Pontbriand who Cleveland fans loved and appreciated for almost every second of his tenure in Cleveland. Still, it is more than just noteworthy when looking at Phil Dawson’s stats from 2011.

Dawson went six for six through the rest of the season including one December game in Cleveland and one in Pittsburgh before ending the season on January 1st to end the Browns’ season going three for three in a 13-9 loss to the Steelers. No kicker is perfect and a kicking game relies on everyone doing their job well. Speaking specifically about Phil Dawson in 2011, it is very difficult to figure out how he could have been much more perfect. The one over the bar should have been centered, and the rest probably weren’t his fault. If everything goes the Browns’ way in the kicking game a year ago, Phil Dawson probably deserved to be 28-29. That didn’t happen, but let’s just say Phil Dawson earned his money.

So just in case you think you can stare at statistics and box scores to determine a kicker’s accuracy, I’m here to tell you differently. Also, anyone who has a vote may feel free to reference this when affirmatively voting to put Phil Dawson in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

Markus Kuhn took unconventional route to NC State, NFL

Markus Kuhn rushes Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

By Chris Saunders

November 9, 2012

New York Giants defensive lineman Markus Kuhn says that whenever he sees former Giants great Michael Strahan, the two joke about a link from their geographical pasts.

“I kid him that Germany produces great linemen for the New York Giants,” Kuhn says, laughing.

Strahan lived in Germany as a child, the son of a U.S. Army man. But Kuhn, who played football for the Wolfpack from 2007-2011, hails from Weinheim, Germany and, he says, is only the third German player ever to reach the league.

“I’m the second German playing right now in the NFL,” he says. “And I was the first German at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.”

Sporting life in Weinheim pretty much meant that Kuhn could find an athletic outlet in soccer, Germany’s most popular sport. (He says football in Germany is less popular than soccer is in the United States). But it wasn’t until he was 14 years old and vacationed in Florida that Kuhn found his true calling. He remembers seeing a football game on television and thinking it was cool that there were these large guys hitting each other at full force. “I thought it fit my personality,” he says.

Kuhn at NC State.

So Kuhn returned to Germany and started playing linebacker and defensive end for a club team, the Weinheim Longhorns, when he was 15. He played for four seasons, racking up tackles and multiple all-star honors.

It was then that he decided to bring his game to America. Kuhn and his father traveled to smaller programs like Liberty University and to larger programs like NC State, armed with his translated transcripts and a highlight DVD in hand. He immediately fell in love with the Wolfpack.

“The school was one of the friendliest and most open,” he says.

Kuhn was taken in the seventh round of last April’s NFL draft by the Giants, who already had former Wolfpackers Sean Locklear and Andre Brown on their roster. Kuhn, 26, has played in every game and continues to learn something new, like different blocking schemes from offensive lineman, with every snap.

And he talks about his learning curve and his success with an appreciation for the somewhat absurd way his story has unfolded.

“It’s a pretty unusual story and sometimes I can’t believe where I am right now,” he says. “For an American kid playing in high school, it’s very unrealistic. If you’re a German kid playing in Germany, it just doesn’t happen.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable.”

Hard to Get More Consistent Than Eagles’ Henery

November 8, 2012

By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – 2012 obviously hasn’t gone according to plan to this point for the Eagles. They are 3-5, mired in a four-game losing streak and plagued by struggles on both sides of the ball.

However, second-year kicker Alex Henery has been a consistent bright spot and really has been since he arrived in 2011.

Drafted by the Eagles in the 4th round of the 2011 draft out of Nebraska, you can literally count the number of field goal misses Henery has had on one hand. He is 38 of 42 in his NFL career, including 14 of 15 here in 2012.

“Been pretty happy with the way I’ve been kicking the ball, especially field goals,” Henery tells KYW Newsradio. “Kick-off wise I’ve kind of been up and down, but I’m pretty happy how I’m hitting the ball.”

The Eagles drafted Henery to replace the most successful kicker in franchise history in David Akers, who is now in San Francisco. Despite the big shoes to fill, Henery says he didn’t feel any added pressure to succeed when he came in as a rookie.

“Tried not to worry too much about it,” Henery says. “People try to build it up more than it really is. I was just coming in here to do my job and help out the team any way I can. David was here for a good number of years and was a great kicker here, so I respected that. But I was here to do my job and not really put too much more added pressure on than I needed to.”

Kicking outdoors in the northeast can prove to be a challenge and he says the Linc has its moments.

“It’s probably one of the harder places (to kick)” Henery says. “But I’m from Nebraska and it’s kind of like Nebraska’s stadium. You get your winds coming through the corners and it’s just one of those things, on the day of the game, you go out there and see which way it’s blowing, trust it, and go on kicking like you normally do.”

Henery has had to adjust a bit here in 2012 as his holder changed when the Eagles switched punters from Chas Henry to Mat McBriar, but that change hasn’t interfered with his success.

“It was nice that I was able to work with him in camp. So it made the transition a little bit easier since it was during a game week. Other than that it’s just getting used to the rhythm and the timing and going with it from there.”

Henery and the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at 4:25pm at the Linc.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Can’t-miss season continues as Phil Dawson drills 5 field goals

By Brian Dulik

November 5, 2012

CLEVELAND — Veteran kicker Phil Dawson accounted for every one of the Browns’ points in Sunday’s 25-15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Dawson made five field goals in five attempts — splitting the uprights from 32, 28, 29, 33 and 41 yards — despite the poor field conditions at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“To make five field goals today with the grass being all torn up and muddy is awesome,” Cleveland long snapper Christian Yount said. “This shows again why Phil is the best kicker in the NFL and why we all have the utmost confidence in him.”

Though the Browns’ season has been fatally flawed, Dawson has been perfect, making 17 of 17 field goals and 16 of 16 extra points for a team-leading 67 points. He also has connected on his last 23 field goal tries, dating back to 2011.

“Honestly, I was a little worried about shaking the rust off because I didn’t try a field goal in the last two weeks,” said Dawson, who has played in 208 games with Cleveland. “Obviously, Christian’s snap and Reggie (Hodges’ hold) were flawless all day, so it felt just like it always does once we got out there.”

Adding to the level of difficulty, the playing surface got progressively worse because of the rain it absorbed during Superstorm Sandy. Dawson said his approach was slower than usual because it was difficult to maintain solid footing.

The second-leading scorer in Browns history still managed to go 5-for-5 for the third time in his 14-year NFL career. Dawson also owns one 6-for-6 performance on Nov. 5, 2006, at San Diego.

“The field was obviously not ideal, but our grounds crew deserves a tremendous amount of appreciation for getting it in as good of shape as they did,” he said.

“The tight ends and wings on our field-goal block also protected (Baltimore’s) pretty good rush. Because the footing was so iffy, I have to credit those guys for giving me the extra time to dig them out and get the ball through.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Vote For Dawson

By Ryan Ruiz

November 6, 2012

In another dismal Cleveland Browns season, there is one bright shining star. Since entering the NFL in 1999, Phil Dawson has dominated. The 37 year old makes kick after kick with extreme ease.

In Dawson’s fourteen years in the league, he has never made a Pro Bowl. When a kicker is on a bad team, they are often overlooked for Pro Bowl consideration. This has been the case for Dawson his entire career. With his calm approach every year, it’s time for Dawson to go to the Pro Bowl. Enough is enough, now is the time and it is well deserved.

Why does the reliable veteran deserve to go in 2012? Cleveland’s captain of special teams has been near perfect this year. With the exception of one mishandled snap that was not his fault, Dawson has converted every one his kicks. Nowhere at all have any of the attempts been easy chip shots either. Five of his kicks have been forty yards or more and four have been from fifty yards or more. Yet, he continues to knock them down and is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

The former Texas Longhorn has attempted 17 field goals and has nailed all 17 of them. He is 100% on the year! In Cleveland’s 17 total touchdowns, Dawson is 16 of 17 in the point after.

During last Sunday’s match up against the division rival Baltimore Ravens, Dawson nailed five field goals and single handedly gave the Browns a 15-14 lead. All of Cleveland’s points belonged to Dawson giving him 67 total points on the 2012 campaign. With the Browns struggling to find the end zone often, it has gotten to the point where it is not the Cleveland Browns anymore, it is the Cleveland “Dawsons”. With Presidential election finally here, it’s time to vote for Dawson.

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