Browns out-kick Seattle, extend Niners' lead
Dawson converted two field goals over 50 yards and had two others blocked, but booted Cleveland to a dull, low-scoring win over the sloppy Seahawks, who came in missing starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and lost running back Marshawn Lynch to a back injury during pregame warm-ups
The Seahawks dropped to 2-4, placing them a full three games behind the 5-1 49ers in the NFC West. San Francisco was on its bye week and watched all three of its divisional rivals lose Sunday as the Arizona Cardinals (1-5) were dumped 32-20 at home by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the winless St. Louis Rams (0-6) were routed 34-7 in Dallas.
The Browns will bring a 3-3 record to Candlestick Park next weekend after slipping by the Seahawks.
''We'll take this one,'' Dawson said. ''We're probably not going to brag about it in 15 years, but we'll take the win.''
The Browns didn't reach the end zone, but Dawson bailed them out with kicks of 52 and 53 yards, his first career game with two makes over 50. Despite weeks of drama and injuries for first-year coach Pat Shurmur, Cleveland has a .500 record after six games for just the fourth time since its 1999 expansion rebirth.
"Whew, huh?'' Shurmur said, opening his news conference. ''You do what you have to do to win the game.''
The Seahawks couldn't do much. They managed 137 yards of offense, and Seattle had the ball for only 17:04. Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, filling in for Jackson, completed 12 of 30 passes for 97 yards and couldn't get the Seahawks moving at all.
Making matter worse, Seattle was penalized eight times, and its biggest play was called back by a penalty as Leon Washington's 81-yard punt return for a TD in the third quarter was nullified by a blocking-in-the-back infraction – one of several mistakes the young team made that annoyed coach Pete Carroll.
''It was a very difficult loss,'' said Carroll, who also had some issues with referee Mike's Carey's crew. ''The guys took it hard. It was really close. The margin of error became a factor that amplified every call and every play. Unfortunately, we couldn't get enough going to get the win.''
Carroll didn't blame the officials, but he wants to take a closer look at a few calls.
''When a game is this close, a call can make a difference,'' Carroll said. ''Whether they did or not, we'll see the film and take a look. In this game, those calls are magnified. I kind of hope they're right, to tell you the truth. I hope they made the right choices because it's pretty hard to live with if they didn't.''
Dawson's 53-yard field goal with 11:18 left gave the Browns a 6-3 lead, and the 36-year-old was set to give Cleveland a six-point lead but his 24-yard attempt with 3:05 left was swatted away by Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant, who earlier blocked a 48-yarder in the first quarter.
However, Seattle couldn't move the ball as Whitehurst had four incompletions and had a pass dropped on the Seahawks' final possession.
In the final minute, a frustrated Bryant was ejected for head-butting Cleveland tight end Alex Smith.
''Dumb move on my part,'' Bryant said. ''I take full responsibility for it. I'm supposed to be a leader. I lost my composure. You never know what could have happened if we got the ball back on offense. He (Smith) was talking the whole game. He was taking cheap shots at me. That's what guys do when they can't block you.''
The Seahawks' only points came on a 20-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka in the third quarter. Other than that, their offense was abysmal.
''We never got going,'' Carroll said.
The victory was forgettable on so many levels, but the Browns will gladly take it.
Earlier in the week, team president Mike Holmgren, the former 49ers offensive coordinator who took over in Cleveland after 10 seasons in Seattle, had to defend Shurmur's early performance and pleaded patience from Browns fans.
Shurmur's West Coast offense remains a work in progress, but quarterback Colt McCoy managed the game, made a few plays and protected Cleveland's slim lead in the final minutes.
''I don't feel we are regressing,'' Shurmur said of the offensive woes. ''They (Seahawks) have a pretty good defense. We just need to get more points.''
The Browns defense did their part. Dawson did the rest.
''Phil's a stud,'' Shurmur said.
Seattle's chances took a big hit before kickoff, when Lynch, the team's leading rusher and top offensive weapon, had back spasms. Lynch remained on the sideline and at one point appeared ready to enter the game.
''He's had an ongoing thing with his back since he arrived with us,'' Carroll said. ''It came up right before game time and he couldn't get loose. We tried to work with him the whole game and keep him going. He was about ready to take a shot at going after it, but he had sat too long.''
The Browns played without running back Peyton Hillis (hamstring) and lost wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and tight end Benjamin Watson to concussions. Also, starting right guard Shawn Lauvao injured his right knee and Shurmur said the second-year player will undergo an MRI on Monday.
Running back Montario Hardesty started for Hillis and had 33 carries for 95 yards. He also caught two passes and didn't drop a pass - a problem for him the past two weeks.
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