Phil Dawson finally finds playoff win

It’s almost the ultimate Cleveland tale -- after A Christmas Story of course.

Longtime kicker who works for years in losing and tough seasons leaves and winds up making the game-winning kick in miserable conditions for his new team.

Good for Phil Dawson, a guy whose popularity and standing with the fans in Cleveland remains strong despite the fact he left the Browns.

That’s what happens when a guy gives 14 years of his professional life to largely losing causes yet never loses his professionalism and approach. Dawson was the most dependable player on the Browns during his 14-year tenure, and yes he hated losing.

At one point when a player complained after a losing season that he’d like to be able to do more when the teams go on the road, Dawson said the only thing he wanted to change was win -- that he’d practice naked if they told him if it meant the team won.

Not a pretty image, but the point was clear. And it came from the same guy who finished a game in Cleveland kicking with a broken arm.

Dawson left the Browns this season and signed with San Francisco, where he had another outstanding season. He made 32-of-36 kicks, including 32 of his last 33 and a franchise-record 27 in a row.

He had the second-most points and field goals in 49ers history and won the playoff game with a 33-yard kick in minus-10 degree wind chill.

“I’ve waited a long time to win a playoff game,” Dawson told the media after the game. “And I finally got to do it and it was worth the wait.”

He then credited the rest of the team for giving him a chance to win it. Typical. Dawson is a guy who understands his role, is always ready and never gets too carried away with himself.

Viewers on FOX may have been surprised near the end of the game when a sideline report quoted Dawson saying there was no range, that the conditions made any kick difficult. (Don Cockroft could explain a few things about having to kick in those conditions as well.)

Dawson merely was doing what he always has done: Tell the truth.

The conditions were miserable, and he had to block it out and make the kick. He did -- even putting it between the arms of a diving Packers defender (who was offside).

Dawson is 38, but he seems to get better and stronger the longer he kicks. He made four-of-six from 50 yards or more this season; the last three seasons he’s made 18-of-21 from that distance.

The Browns decision to let Dawson go was never fully explained, but in the end he wound up in a great city with a playoff team and the Browns wound up with Billy Cundiff, who had a good season.

Dawson still ranks as the Browns career leader in field-goal percentage (minimum 100 kicks) and has more field goals made than anyone in team history. He also ranks second in points in team history, behind Lou Groza, whom Dawson always respected greatly.

Dawson may have left and found his playoff success elsewhere, but at some point he should return to Cleveland.

On the day when the Browns put his name in the team’s Ring of Honor.