Focus Shifts To Cincitucky

The punch-less Browns prepare to mercilessly kick field goals at the Bengals...

The way the Browns offense has sputtered, they will need another strong performance by Phil Dawson Sunday if they are to complete a sweep of their downstate rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals.

A December game on the shores of Lake Erie means knowing the tricky winds that swirl through Cleveland Browns Stadium late in the year. Dawson is 14 of 17 on field-goal attempts at home this season.

"I think Phil is one of the best kickers in the NFL," special teams coach Ted Daisher said. "He kicks in an environment that is challenging to kickers.

"Adam Vinatieri of the Colts was here a couple weeks ago. He might be in the Hall of Fame one day. He may be the best pressure kicker in the last 10 or 15 years. He hit a field goal that was left by 20 or 30 yards. I think Phil has done a great job."

The challenges of kicking in Cleveland, with the gaps in the stands through which the wind gusts in different directions, and the chewed up sod with a sand base, making it difficult for a kicker to set his plant foot, cannot be dismissed.

Last season in a home game, kicking in a blizzard against the Bills, Dawson nailed a 49-yard field goal by aiming midway between the left sideline and the left upright. The wind carried the ball back to the right, the ball barely skimming the crossbar. Dawson calls it the best kick of his 10-year career.

"When you kick or punt in Cleveland, you're going to have to face things that are seldom seen elsewhere in the league," said Dawson, who often chats with his kicking brethren before a game. "Everyone wants to know which flag to look at. In our stadium there are four flags and they're all pointing in different directions. I've been here 10 years and I'm still surprised."

Not much has gone the Browns' way this season, but when it has, Dawson has usually been in the middle of it. He kicked two field goals against the Bengals in Cincinnati in a 20-12 victory on Sept. 28. He broke a 17-17 tie in Jacksonville with two field goals in the fourth quarter.

Dawson, who kicked two field goals in overtime last season, nailed a 56-yarder with 1:36 left in Buffalo and then the defense held on for a 29-27 victory.

"I'm reluctant to even comment on the season when I still have (two) games to screw up," Dawson said. "Up to this point it's been a solid all-around year. I've kind of put everything together. That was a goal of mine."

Dawson has been the only kicker the Browns have had since returning to the NFL. Next season he will likely surpass the all-time franchise record of 234 field goals set by Lou Groza from 1950-59 and 1961-67.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You don't worry about it. You try to hope that what you are doing is respected and people feel you are doing a good job." -- Special teams coach Ted Daisher, on his own job status coupled with the uncertainty of Romeo Crennel's future.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Home victory for the Browns this season with one home game left.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--TE Kellen Winslow will miss his second straight game Monday with a high ankle sprain.

--Coach Romeo Crennel said he expects OL Ryan Tucker to play next season. Tucker is on I.R. recovering from knee surgery. The only game he played in was the 35-14 victory over the Giants.

--Mike Adams, Eric Wright and Terry Cousin each intercepted a pass when the Browns played in Cincinnati in September.


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