September 19, 2002 at 9:37 PM EST - Updated July 1 at 8:20 AM
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Phil Dawson hasn't missed a field goal in almost a year for the Cleveland Browns.
Don't bring it up, though.
"We don't talk about it," said punter Chris Gardocki, who doubles as Dawson's holder on kicks. "But every once in a while, we'll bring it up to him just to get a jab in."
The 27-year-old Dawson has been reminded of his streak -- now at 21 straight -- plenty in the past week. Going into Sunday's game at Tennessee, he's just two shy of matching Cleveland's club record set by Matt Stover in 1994-95.
While Dawson may be closing in on Cleveland's record, he's far from Gary Anderson's league mark of 40 straight.
Dawson's last miss came on Oct. 7 when a 48-yarder at San Diego was partially blocked.
But Dawson is trying not to dwell on the roll he's on. After making 15 in a row to end last season, he's 6-for-6 in 2002 and has the longest current streak in the NFL.
"The streak is fun," he said. "But about the time you start thinking about it, it's over."
Dawson tied a career-high by kicking four field goals in the season opener against Kansas City. He extended his streak by two in last week's 20-7 win over Cincinnati, connecting on kicks from 52 and 45 yards. The 52-yarder was the longest of his career.
"It was actually 53 yards, for some reason they always round down," he joked. "It was good to get that monkey off my back. I've heard I can't make 50-yard field goals for years now, even though I always knew I could."
Dawson actually kicked three field goals on Sunday, but a 40-yarder in the fourth quarter was wiped out by an illegal-formation penalty. Dawson wasn't rattled by the do-over, and drilled his 45-yarder.
"That's tough to do, kick two in a row like that," coach Butch Davis said. "Phil did an excellent job of refocusing."
Despite his accuracy -- he was 22-for-25 a year -- ago, Dawson, the Browns' only kicker since they returned to the league in 1999, has been criticized for not being able to kick long field goals.
His 52-yarder was his first attempt beyond 50 yards.
In his career, he has made 12 of 19 attempts from beyond 40 yards.
"I always thought he had a strong leg to begin with," Gardocki said. "He got the rap as not having a strong leg. I don't know where that came from, because he's had a strong leg ever since he got here."
His leg seems to be getting stronger, too. After getting just two touchbacks in 2001, he already has three this season.
"A lot of it has to do with confidence, it's just like a golf swing," Dawson said. "When you are feeling good and not worried about shanking it, you just step up and rip it. That is what I've worked on. The whole thing has been a huge learning process."
After getting off to a slow start last season, when he missed three of his first eight attempts, Davis stuck by Dawson and predicted his kicker would soon make 10 in a row.
Dawson came through, and has been right down the middle for the Browns ever since.
"I feel pressure every kick -- whether it's to make the 22nd in a row or first, I treat it the same way," he said.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)