Dawson made five field goals in five attempts — splitting the uprights from 32, 28, 29, 33 and 41 yards — despite the poor field conditions at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“To make five field goals today with the grass being all torn up and muddy is awesome,” Cleveland long snapper Christian Yount said. “This shows again why Phil is the best kicker in the NFL and why we all have the utmost confidence in him.”
Though the Browns’ season has been fatally flawed, Dawson has been perfect, making 17 of 17 field goals and 16 of 16 extra points for a team-leading 67 points. He also has connected on his last 23 field goal tries, dating back to 2011.
“Honestly, I was a little worried about shaking the rust off because I didn’t try a field goal in the last two weeks,” said Dawson, who has played in 208 games with Cleveland. “Obviously, Christian’s snap and Reggie (Hodges’ hold) were flawless all day, so it felt just like it always does once we got out there.”
Adding to the level of difficulty, the playing surface got progressively worse because of the rain it absorbed during Superstorm Sandy. Dawson said his approach was slower than usual because it was difficult to maintain solid footing.
The second-leading scorer in Browns history still managed to go 5-for-5 for the third time in his 14-year NFL career. Dawson also owns one 6-for-6 performance on Nov. 5, 2006, at San Diego.
“The field was obviously not ideal, but our grounds crew deserves a tremendous amount of appreciation for getting it in as good of shape as they did,” he said.
“The tight ends and wings on our field-goal block also protected (Baltimore’s) pretty good rush. Because the footing was so iffy, I have to credit those guys for giving me the extra time to dig them out and get the ball through.”
Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor made his season debut after undergoing surgery for a torn left pectoral in May. He was only credited with one tackle, but played a significant role in stopping Baltimore’s run game over the final three quarters.
“I played my heart out because it’s been a long time,” Taylor said. “Until the clock reads zero, I’m coming hard.”
Always quick to express an opinion, the second-year pro again dissed Ravens running back Ray Rice, who gained 98 yards on 25 carries.
“He had, what, 9 yards (on six rushes) in the second and third quarters?” Taylor said. “Like I said, he’s just another name.”
Baltimore outscored Cleveland 14-0 in the first period and 11-3 in the fourth, but the Browns held their guests scoreless in the middle two quarters. The 6-foot-3, 355-pounder said the latter fact proved something to both teams.
“We showed that they weren’t that good in the second and third quarters,” Taylor said. “We’re this close (to turning the corner). We know it.”
Friends and foes
Browns running back Trent Richardson, who gained a game-high 105 yards on 25 carries, exchanged jerseys with Rice at midfield after the game.
“It felt good to trade jerseys with a beast in Trent Richardson,” said Rice, who has acted as a mentor to Richardson since the NFL Draft. “Mutual respect on both ends.”
Though Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco are 10-0 in their NFL careers against Cleveland, Richardson did earn a moral victory. He joined Jacksonville’s Fred Taylor (128 yards on Sept. 20, 1988) as just the second rookie to run for 100 yards against Baltimore.
T-Rich also tied the Browns record for 100-yard games by a rookie with his third — and joined Bobby Mitchell (1958) and Earnest Byner (1984) as the only Cleveland first-year players to reach the century mark in back-to-back games.
Stats and stuff
- Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs eclipsed the NFL record for kickoff return yards with one team with 9,638, moving past Washington’s Brian Mitchell (9,586). The former Kent State quarterback ranks sixth all time in total kickoff return yards.
- Ravens safety Ed Reed grabbed his 11th interception against the Browns, picking off Brandon Weeden in the fourth quarter. He now has 26 thefts against AFC North Division teams.
- In the third period, Weeden was intercepted by Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams, snapping Cleveland’s streak of 209 offensive plays without a turnover.
- Browns wide receiver Greg Little made a season-high-tying five receptions for 52 yards.
- Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and Cleveland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson led the way with nine tackles apiece, while Browns defensive end Jabaal Sheard made eight stops.
Ward in a state
One of the more pivotal plays came with 7:42 left in the fourth when Browns safety T.J. Ward was called for roughing the passer on Flacco, negating what would have been a third-and-8 situation for Baltimore. Ward appeared to club Flacco on the back of the head with his forearm.
Cleveland led 15-14 at the time, but six snaps later, Torrey Smith caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to put the Ravens ahead for good. Flacco then tossed a 2-point conversion to Boldin.
“I pulled up, I don’t see what was wrong with the hit, so I don’t know,” Ward said. “I don’t know if it was a blow to the head or a late hit, but I don’t agree with it.”
Out of action
- The Browns’ inactives were defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (left high ankle sprain), wide receiver Josh Cooper (thigh), safety Tashaun Gipson (knee), guard Jarrod Shaw (illness), running back Brandon Jackson, and fullback Owen Marecic. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi played for the first time since tearing a hamstring Sept. 23 against Buffalo. He started and made one catch for 6 yards before aggravating the injury in fourth quarter.
- The Ravens did not dress defensive end Pernell McPhee (thigh), cornerback Asa Jackson, running back Bobby Rainey, guard Ramon Harewood, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, tight end Billy Bajema, and defensive tackle Bryan Hall.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.