Officials decide Dawson kick ties game before OT victory

BALTIMORE (ESPN.com news services) -- It was a comeback victory in every sense of the word.

The Cleveland Browns literally had to come back onto the field to complete a 33-30 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday after it appeared the game ended with a missed field goal by Phil Dawson.

The Browns trailed 30-27 on the final play of regulation when Dawson attempted a tying 51-yard kick. The ball hit the left upright and seemingly bounced off the crossbar before bounding into the end zone.

The officials called the kick no good. The Ravens ran off the field, celebrating a victory in which they scored 16 straight points in the fourth quarter, the last three on a 47-yard field goal by Matt Stover with 26 seconds left.

Many of the Browns walked off in stunned silence after Dawson's kick. Several Cleveland players, however, insisted Dawson's kick hit the curved center support behind the crossbar. They gathered in the end zone, pointing at the spot where the football struck before bouncing back.

They were right. After a lengthy discussion, the officials ruled the kick passed through the uprights and called the teams back onto the field.

Referee Pete Morelli had announced over the public address system that he would "take a look at this play" before he went to the review booth and manned the headphones to replay assistant Howard Slavin. According to league spokesman Greg Aiello, Slavin told Morelli that he couldn't show him the kick because field goals are not reviewable under the rules.

Morelli proceeded to further discuss the kick with his crew and Aiello said one of the back judges, Keith Ferguson, "felt more strongly" that the ball had crossed through the goal posts. Morelli based his reversal on Ferguson's opinion.

Referring to the initial call, Morelli said, "It was a ruling by one of the officials. The other official informed me that the ball hit the back of the extension of the goal post. ... We determined that was what it struck. Therefore, it made the field goal good."

From half a football field away, Dawson wasn't positive his kick made it through.

"I couldn't tell for sure. I could tell by the way it glanced off the upright, it looked like it went forward," he said. "But we had people down near the goal post who were screaming at the top of their lungs that it had hit whatever that bar you call it."

Baltimore coach Brian Billick and half the team were in the locker room when a team official told him the game wasn't over. Linebacker Ray Lewis, who returned an interception for a touchdown earlier, was peeling tape off his ankles when told he might have to return.

"It's over. We won," he said.

But it wasn't, and now the Ravens' slim playoff hopes appear done. Baltimore (4-6) has lost four straight, none more painful than this one.

"It's crazy, it's weird," Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said. "Just when you thought everything that had gone wrong you had overcome it, then there's another thing. They probably made the right call."

The Browns (6-4) took the kickoff in overtime and drove 43 yards in nine plays before Dawson kicked a 33-yard field goal with 9:10 left.

"This team, for whatever reason, thrives on adversity. The tougher the situation, the better we do," Dawson said. "We all had a feeling when we got the call and went into overtime, what a shame it would have been to not capitalize on it."

Cleveland forced four turnovers, had a season-high six sacks and earned its first season sweep of the Ravens since 2001.

But it took one surreal scenario for it to happen.

"I was going out to meet Brian and go into the locker room and saw the referees huddling in the end zone," Browns coach Romeo Crenell said. "I've never seen anything like this. There's a first time for everything. It was crazy."

After a team-record, 100-yard interception return by Cleveland's Brodney Pool put the Browns up 27-14, Kyle Boller led the Ravens on a pair of drives that produced field goals to cut the gap to 27-20 with 7:20 left.

Boller then produced the tying touchdown operating in a no-huddle attack. A 42-yard pass to Devard Darling and an 11-yarder to Willis McGahee preceded a 27-yard TD pass to Darling in the left corner of the end zone with 3:31 to go.

After a Cleveland punt, Boller went 4-for-8 for 45 yards before Stover came in to kick what appeared to be the winner.

Starting in place of an injured and ineffective Steve McNair, Boller threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. But he went 22-for-41 for 279 yards, eclipsing Vinny Testaverde as the Ravens' career leader in passing yardage.

Former Ravens draft pick Derek Anderson went 24-for-38 for 274 yards and a touchdown. Another former Raven, Jamal Lewis, ran for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Operating against the league's 32nd-ranked defense, Boller led the Ravens on four scoring drives in the fourth quarter. But Anderson got the ball last, and he burned his former team by getting Dawson in position for the tying and winning kicks.

Game notes
Cleveland DB Eric Wright (knee) left in the first quarter. ... Baltimore DT Trevor Pryce (chest) left with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. ... The Ravens had not lost an overtime game since falling to Miami in 2003.

Chris Mortensen, who covers the NFL for ESPN.com, contributed to this report.