CLEVELAND: The Browns were already headed for a loss by the time a cameraman panned what was left of the crowd at Browns Stadium in the final minutes of the game Sunday, settling on a fan holding a neon green sign high above his head that read “Phil for President.”
Displayed on the stadium’s video board after Baltimore tacked on a 43-yard field goal with 2:49 to go that put the game out of reach, the sign might have been about the only positive sentiment the Browns faithful had by the end of the 25-15 loss to the Ravens.
If there’s anyone on the Browns’ roster who can be counted on time and again to get the job done regardless of the situation or condition, it’s veteran kicker Phil Dawson. He once again proved his worth for the downtrodden franchise by kicking five field goals that accounted for all of the Browns points on the cold November afternoon.
“Five field goals today, that’s absolutely amazing on Phil’s part,” said long snapper Christian Yount of Dawson’s kicks of 32, 28 and 29 yards in the second quarter, a 33-yarder in the third and 41-yarder in the fourth. “It’s why he’s the best kicker in the league.”
Dawson is now 17-for-17 this season, part of the NFL’s longest current stretch of 23 consecutive kicks made dating to last season. He needs 19 more to match the NFL record of 42 consecutive field goals made by former Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt.
That’s noteworthy considering it seems personal records might be all Dawson has left to shoot for these days. Five field goals might seem indicative of a new mark of ineptitude for the struggling Browns, but Dawson has kicked that many four other times in his 15-year career — all in Cleveland. In fact, Dawson’s career-high is six field goals, achieved during a 2005 game against the San Diego Chargers.
“Coming into this game, it’d been two games since I’d even tried one,” said Dawson, 37. “So I was hoping to get out there early and believe it or not, shake the rust off. But I sat there the whole first quarter and didn’t even touch the field. I was a little concerned with how the game might turn out, but then the second quarter I got out there three times and started to settle in.”
Although there was no precipitation from the cloudy skies during the game, all the rain and wind from the remnants of Superstorm Sandy earlier in the week had taken a toll on the field.
“The conditions were tough,” Dawson said. “But I gotta give credit to our grounds crew, it was a pretty crazy week with Sandy. The field obviously wasn’t ideal, but the job those guys did to even get it to the point it was, they deserve a tremendous amount of [credit].”
Never one to take sole credit for any of his accomplishments, Dawson went on to shower praise on Yount and holder/punter Reggie Hodges for the snap and hold.
Dawson shrugs off most personal praise, especially during a loss, but his teammates are quick to pour it on.
“[He’s] a veteran, always clutch,” defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard said. “I don’t even look at it when he kicks field goals; I always expect those points.”
Yet, for all Dawson has meant to the Browns over the years since the team’s rebirth in 1999, there’s somewhat of a feeling of letdown when he trots out onto the field for three points with an offense that often struggles to mix in a touchdown here and there.
“We’d move the football, get down in the red zone and didn’t score any touchdowns,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “You start getting threes instead of sevens when you find you’re way down there and of course the outcome is much different.”
Or as Dawson said: “I’d rather be kicking extra points than field goals.”
When asked about the sign, Dawson smiled, but said he didn’t see it.
“I don’t think I’m electable,” he joked.
A popular vote among Browns fans might indicate otherwise.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.