|St. Louis Rams kicker Josh Brown (3) reacts after making a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter in an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Cleveland. The Rams won 13-12. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)|
Rams catch break, beat Browns 13-12
CLEVELAND—The St. Louis Rams thought they were finished, a gallant attempt falling a little short.
And then, the Cleveland Browns snapped.
Phil Dawson missed a 22-yard field goal with 2:13 left after the snap from center hit a teammate's foot and bounced back to the holder, allowing the Rams to escape with a 13-12 win despite a rash of key injuries.
As Dawson lined up for his chip shot, some the St. Louis players were planning for a final drive while others braced for the worst. But when Dawson's kick barely got off the ground and sailed wide, the Rams (2-7) felt luckier than they have all season.
"I thought this stuff only happened to the Rams," running back Steven Jackson joked. "I didn't think it happened to other teams."
Jackson rushed for 128 yards, Sam Bradford threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd and Josh Brown kicked a pair of field goals -- the last with 7:42 left -- for the Rams, who lost a heartbreaker in overtime last week to Arizona. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said this win can only help his team's mental health.
"It didn't go our way, and to lose that way is tough," he said of the 19-13 loss to the Cardinals. "Every one of these wins, every one we're going to get the rest of the season, is going to be a scratch, crawl, grab, and try to survive just like we did here. Find a way to make a play at the end. Maybe a little luck, we'll take that, too."
When Dawson trotted onto the field, the Browns (3-6) seemed moments from victory.
In a snap, they were seconds from despair.
"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 final attempt 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.
Cleveland's Ryan Pontbriand, a Pro Bowler considered the NFL's best long snapper, hiked the ball cleanly but it caromed off the right foot of center Alex Mack, who lines up at left guard on 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 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 noticeably upset, mostly because of his young team's costly mistakes.
"I feel bad for Pat and his football team right now," Spagnuolo said. "He's a close friend."
As Dawson lined up, Bradford was on the sideline devising a two-minute drive with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
"I was going through my mind the reads I'd have to make and some of the balls I'd have to throw," said Bradford, who went 15 of 26 for 155 yards with a TD and interception. "We were talking about what we'd see from them on defense and what we were expecting to call. I was trying to get myself mentally prepared to lead our team back down and score points."
He didn't have to as the Rams, who opened the season 0-6, ran out the clock and got their second win in three weeks.
St. Louis had six players injured, including Bradford, who took a knee to the thigh in the third quarter and came out for one play. He missed two games earlier this season with a high ankle sprain.
But Jackson was healthy and ran like a mad man.
"He's running possessed," Bradford said of his teammate. "He's running hard. He looks great."
Jackson laughed and agreed with his QB's comment.
"It's kind of scary," he said. "I look forward to Sundays. I look forward to taking over. I am a man possessed on Sundays. To be honest with you, that's the way you should play."
Brown's 34-yard field goal gave the Rams a 13-12 lead with 7:42 remaining. That score was set up by a fumble by Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs, who was stripped trying to get extra yards on a punt return by Rams linebacker David Nixon.
While getting ready for the Browns, Nixon noticed Cribbs can be nonchalant with the ball.
"We saw that he likes to have the ball exposed and he doesn't secure it very well," Nixon said. "We ran him down and he was trying to avoid Craig Dahl. I saw the ball exposed so I went for the ball knowing we needed a big play and I got it out."
Notes: Five Rams did not return after getting hurt. Spagnuolo said CB Al Harris and TE Michael Hoomanawanui have "significant" knee injuries. RB Cadillac Williams strained his calf running onto the field. OT Rodger Saffold suffered a head injury and S Darian Stewart hurt his neck. ... Jackson has 30 career games over 100 yards, second in team history to Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson's 38. ... Rams P Donnie Jones averaged 47.2 yards with a long of 64.