Down there in the little world that is Browns hysteria, Phil Dawson looked like a figurine trapped in a snow globe. The Browns’ best playoff chances rested on the foot of the 5-foot-11, 200-pound place-kicker.
Down there in the little world that is Browns hysteria, Phil Dawson looked like a figurine trapped in a snow globe.
The Browns’ best playoff chances rested on the foot of the 5-foot-11, 200-pound place-kicker. They needed him -- like they have much this season -- to rat out on the Buffalo Bills on a Sunday taken from Thomas Kinkade’s canvass.
The football gods didn’t just sneeze in the face of Cleveland’s playoff hopes, they huffed and they puffed. They never did blow down little Dawson.
Into winds gusting more than 40 miles an hour and bringing a mini-blizzard off Lake Erie, Dawson’s 49-yard field goal kissed the back of the stanchion support -- which might as well be his target now -- and the ball bounced the Browns’ way again. Cleveland’s 8-0 win did wonders for the franchise’s fragile psyche, not to mention its playoff aspirations.
“We’ve been getting a lot of breaks all year and it’s gratifying to be getting those good breaks, instead of the bad ones all the time,” linebacker Andra Davis said. “The good teams get good breaks. In the past, let’s face it, we weren’t a good team. This year, we’re a good team.”
So many years and so many games, the oblong football bounced the other way.
Davis, here for most of those traumatizing losses, knows what it’s like on the other side, the dark side where the cookie crumbles in your milk.
“It’s terrible,” Davis said. “It’s knowing you’re going home in November. Now we have a lot to play for, and it’s great.”
Ah, the football gods. Maybe those winds -- those howling, flesh-tearing winds -- weren’t blowing against Dawson’s kick. He lined the improbable boot up like a putt on a sloped green. The ball started far left of the left upright, and then, it rode the gust of the gods.
“I don’t want it to sound like I had much control over it,” Dawson said.
The ball drifted back toward the middle of the field goal post before kicking off the wet stanchion for an 8-0 lead on a day when the first one to score was enough.
The kick was such a long shot even quarterback Derek Anderson didn’t think they’d actually go through with it.
“I thought it was a pooch punt or something,” Anderson said. “Then he made it. It was amazing.”
In pregame, the longest field goal Dawson made into the end zone opposite of the Dawg Pound was 48 yards. That was on a field that was still green.
Now he needed to hit one a yard longer, into stronger winds, and do it from the snow and ice. Dawson told Head Coach Romeo Crennel they were on the edge of his distance from that end, which is like stretching a dollar bill into a Big Mac.
“You don’t have time to think about the odds,” of making it, Dawson said. “When your coach is as decisive as Romeo was, it gives you confidence.”
Dawson has been here before. He’s kicked into the teeth of these winds and had been chewed up. There was a game against Tennessee a few seasons back, and another one against San Diego.
“I think the main difference between those games and this one is this game mattered,” Dawson said. “Everyone knew what was riding on this game.”
A loss like this would have been devastating. It would have been a same-old-Browns loss on a day when a new-look, new-luck franchise needed a win.
“When this organization set out nine years ago, it envisioned this is what Cleveland Browns football was all about,” Dawson said. “It’s about a game late in the year with a chance to go to playoffs in horrible weather and to come out on top. I hope the fans enjoyed it. I know the players did.”
The breaks are going Cleveland’s way, almost every week, for a change. Good teams, playoff teams, are lucky teams.
The Browns are better and they’re lucky.
“I felt pressure for nine years, but this is a good pressure,” Dawson said. “This is for something positive to happen. This is to build on, and move forward.
“In other years, when the seasons haven’t gone so well, it was like a par putt. You make it, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. You miss it and you’re upset when you leave the green. Now you make a kick, you see how it affects a game, helps your team and sets up scenarios for the playoffs. Now it’s like a birdie putt.”
The beauty of a Kinkade painting is the way light changes the picture. On a polar day in Cleveland, the light shone on the Browns. Their picture isn’t changing. Their perspective is.
Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org