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Browns Browns Archive The Year This Week Didn't Suck: Week 11
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

Dawson CrossbarAs we struggle to survive another season with the new-era Browns, one way we can try to get through it (besides alcohol or heavy medication) is to look back at the best individual weeks of the Browns’ new era to remember times in recent memory when this particular week didn’t suck.

Since the Browns have returned they’ve lost games because:

  • somebody took his helmet off too soon
  • they blocked a potential game-winning field goal but didn’t subsequently recover the football
  • there’s a delay on the instant-replay buzzer
  • their game-winning field goal was waved off because the other team called time out
  • the former receiver-who-caught-the-ball-was-forced-out-of-bounds rule apparently didn’t count when it’s a touchdown on the final play of the game

Bizarre defeats that other teams might suffer once every 10 or 20 years tend to happen to the Browns on an annual basis. And they’re hard to get over, especially at such a cruelly high frequency.

But in these past 14 years, there was one occasion in which the Browns won a game in a fashion just as bizarre as the handful of ones they lost. Once upon a time, they handed another team a defeat that would haunt their memories - though, let’s be honest, they probably got over it much, much quicker that we would have.

Naturally, it’s become a watershed moment in the history of the new Browns, reflected by three simple words:



And Crossbar.

By Week 11, 2007 had already been a surprisingly enjoyable season. The Browns were 5-4, had already surpassed their win total from the year before, and were actually in playoff contention. Though their first-place showdown in Pittsburgh the previous week ended in typically heartbreaking fashion when, after they squandered a 21-6 lead, a potential game-tying 52-yard field goal by Phil Dawson fell just short in the final seconds.

Seven days later, it looked as though the Browns had simply reenacted the same tragedy - down to the granular details.

In what had become a shootout in Baltimore, they took a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter following a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive back Brodney Pool. But when the potent Cleveland offense took a powder in the final minutes, the Ravens fought back to tie the game with three minutes left, then took a 30-27 lead with just 26 ticks left on the clock.

A 39-yard return by Josh Cribbs on the ensuing kickoff gave the Browns new life, and two quick Derek Anderson passes to Joe Jurevicius and Braylon Edwards got them to the Baltimore 33 with three seconds left. Out trotted Phil Dawson in precisely the same situation he’d been in the previous week, this time three feet closer.

Unlike his kick in Pittsburgh, this one had the distance, but the trajectory was just a bit off. As the football spiraled through the soft Chesapeake breeze, it pushed left ever so slightly and kissed off the upright. It caromed right (but more importantly, continued its forward motion), bounced off the curved support that held up the crossbar, then fluttered back over the crossbar and landed in the end zone.

The officials, both looking like somebody had just opened the stall door while they were sitting on the toilet, glanced at each other in sheer panic. While the basic determination of whether a field goal is good or not probably should have been well-ingrained in their minds, in their defense, this had never happened before. Knowing a call needed to be made, they quickly signaled that it was no good.

CBS flashed the score as a final: Ravens 30, Browns 27. Phil Dawson stood by himself in disbelief, looking like a guy who’d been mugged twice in one night. Players and coaches began to leave the field, and the stunned Browns were 5-5 after their second straight crushing loss to a divisional opponent.

In those next few seconds, it’s doubtful many - if any - Browns fans questioned whether the call was correct. Even those who had a little alarm bell going off in the back of their minds - noting that technically the ball had cleared the crossbar and gone between the uprights - knew that any common-sense interpretation was utterly meaningless.

Common sense also says taking your helmet off before the final play is over shouldn’t affect the outcome of the game. Or that when you block a field-goal attempt, you should then get possession. Or that officials can’t review a play after the next play has occurred.

It didn’t matter what was technically correct. The officials had made their ruling, it was unreviewable, and that was that. We’d been here before. On Monday the NFL would sheepishly admit they’d messed up and say the field goal should have been ruled good. But oh, well - it’s just the Browns.

Dawson Celebrates 2But to their credit, even with reporters and cameramen covering the field like cicadas and Ray Lewis already on his way to a nightclub to shank somebody, the officials got together and talked it over. The play wasn’t reviewable, but it was important enough to be “discussable.” And they discussed the hell out of it.

And - Great Caesar’s Ghost - we got the right result.

They reversed their decision, ruled it a successful field goal, and yanked the celebratory Ravens back out onto the field for overtime.

Not surprisingly, a Baltimore team that literally had begun undressing had a hard time getting focused for sudden-death. The Browns won the toss, and after another long return by Cribbs, went down the field bing-bang-boom to set up a much shorter attempt for Dawson.

There was no drama this time. He pushed it cleanly through the uprights, and for the first time in their history, the Browns had won a game that they’d already officially lost.

It was a victory you couldn’t easily forget. And we haven’t, nor will we. That may have been the moment that Phil Dawson went from being just a dependable kicker to a Browns’ legend. Consequently, that curved stanchion has entered the lexicon of football, henceforth known as the “Dawson Bar.” Kind of like Lou Gehrig’s Disease, only without the obvious downside.

The Browns got the bounce, Dawson got the naming rights, and on that November Sunday, fate finally smiled upon the Cleveland Browns and lifted its leg on somebody else.

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