Browns fall apart at home, lose again
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CLEVELAND -- When Phil Dawson trotted onto the field, the Cleveland Browns seemed moments from victory.
In a snap, they were seconds from despair.
Dawson's 22-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left after a bounced snap from Ryan Pontbriand with just over two minutes left, giving the visiting St. Louis Rams a 13-12 win against the bungling Browns, who again failed to score a touchdown at home and couldn't count on their steady kicker to bail them out.
"You leave with a helpless feeling. It's tough," Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said. "We should have won -- more than once. You kind of scratch your head and wonder, 'Where is all this bad luck coming from? Why?'"
Dawson made four field goals in blustery conditions, but his attempt with 2:13 remaining fluttered left of the upright, capping a series of late gaffes by the Browns (3-6), who were booed by their fans as they left the field.
"That's the maddening part," said Dawson. "It's not about how many you made. It's about how many you missed."
Pontbriand, a Pro Bowler considered the NFL's best long snapper, accidentally hiked the ball off the right foot of center Alex Mack, who lines up at left guard for field-goal attempts.
The ball skipped back to holder Brad Maynard, who did a great job of placing it for Dawson. However, the 13-year veteran's timing was thrown off and Dawson missed the chip shot.
"It's on me," Pontbriand said. "My fault. It's my job to get the ball back there and it didn't get there. On those plays, I'm always upside down and never see a thing. From my point of view, everything was normal. But as soon as it came out, I knew something was wrong. It looked like a snap I had never snapped before."
It was an especially painful loss for first-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who spent the previous two seasons as the Rams offensive coordinator.
Following the game, Shurmur was upset, mostly because of his young team's costly mistakes. "What can I say?" Shurmur said. "We were in position to win. I'm disappointed we lost. It hasn't sunk in enough to go through my head yet. I've got a thick head."
Stephen Jackson rushed for 128 yards for St. Louis (2-7), which got a touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Bradford and two field goals by Josh Brown.
As Dawson lined up for his final kick, the Rams, who had five players sustain game-ending injuries, were already planning their strategy for a last drive.
They didn't realize they were in Cleveland, where the beleaguered Browns have a habit of horrid losses.
"I thought this stuff only happened to the Rams," Jackson joked. "I didn't think it happened to other teams."
McCoy went 20 of 27 for 218 yards, but the Browns can't find the end zone. They are the only team in the league that hasn't scored a touchdown in the first or third quarters.
First Published November 14, 2011 12:00 am