In pregame warmups Sunday at Jacksonville's EverBank Field, Browns kicker Phil Dawson was drilling field goals from 60 yards.
But while Dawson connected from 38 and 41 yards in the Browns' 24-20 loss, two 51-yard attempts fell wide right.
Dawson, a 13-year veteran who has been with the Browns since 1999, passed Lou Groza earlier this season as the team's all-time field goal leader. He's always excelled in the swirling winds and bad weather in Cleveland. He's hit 15 of 19 attempts this season, with his other misses coming from 62 and 42 yards, and connected on all of his PATs. He's one of only three Browns to have scored 1,000 points, joining Groza and Don Cockcroft.
Dawson has been seeking a new contract for more than two years, wanting a raise from his $1 million salary. He's in the final year of his deal and may wonder what the future holds. He missed all of the team's off-season activities this year that were not mandatory. Although he's never said it publicly, he may have believed overkicking in OTAs and minicamps in 2009 led to a right calf injury that cost him five games.
He turns 36 in January. He's already seen the Browns waive punter Dave Zastudil off injured reserve. Always a master of concentrating on his next kick, one wonders if his uncertain future is bothering Dawson.
It raised eyebrows on Sunday when Dawson said he hit the ball where he was aiming on both of his 51-yard misses.
Asked if wind was a factor on the second, a kick with 9:47 left in the game that would have put the Browns up 20-10, Dawson said, ''No. I think the ball just moved in the air. I didn’t expect it to go right, and it did.
"Distance wasn’t a concern at all. The maddening part is when you aim and you hit the ball where you’re aiming and it doesn’t go through. Everyone sees a missed kick and they think it was a failure to execute. If there was a failure to execute on those, it was aiming wrong, it wasn’t the physical aspect of it.''
Dawson did regroup on the next one, a 41-yarder that put the Browns up 20-17 with 2:46 to play.
"I’m not perfect,'' Dawson said. "I make mistakes. If you play long enough, you're going to have days like it. To have to regroup and hit the one at the end was tough, but got that one through.
"I hit the first one (from 51) exactly where I was aiming. It didn’t move one inch, (staying outside). Then the next one, from 38, almost went off the end of the world left, so go figure.
"It's a lot like a putt. a putt breaks more when the ball slows down. The longer the kick, the ball’s not going to be able to hold its line as long. I appreciate the opportunity to do those. those are kicks I need to make. I didn’t make 'em today.''
The wind was listed at 8 mph at kickoff, but Dawson didn't use that as an excuse.
"It was swirling a little bit,'' Dawson said. "I’m not complaining. You play outside, you have stuff like that.''