By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — With almost certain victory one short kick and two minutes away, the Cleveland Browns lost - in a snap.
Phil Dawson's 22-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left following a bounced snap from center with just over two minutes left, giving the St. Louis Rams a 13-12 win over the bungling Browns, who again failed to score a touchdown at home and couldn't count on their steady kicker to bail them out.
Dawson made four field goals in blustery conditions, but his attempt with 2:09 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.
Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand's snap appeared to hit the right leg of Browns Pro Bowl 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 was an especially painful loss for first-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who spent the previous two seasons as the Rams offensive coordinator.
Stephen Jackson rushed for 128 yards on 27 carries for St. Louis (2-7), which got a TD pass from Sam Bradford and two field goals by Josh Brown. The Rams lost five players to injuries.
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.
Brown, though, knocked his kickoff out of bounds, giving it to the Browns at the 40. Quarterback Colt McCoy, helped by a personal foul for horse collaring by the Rams, moved Cleveland to the St. Louis 9.
But that's where the Browns, who haven't scored a touchdown in 123 minutes at home, got conservative.
After a run by Chris Ogbonnaya, starting because Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty are hurt, picked up 1 yard, McCoy handed off to tight end Alex Smith on second down, a questionable call given Smith hasn't had a rushing attempt all season. Smith fumbled as he neared the line, but it was recovered by Cribbs.
Ogbonnaya picked up 3 yards on third down and Dawson trotted out to put the Browns ahead.
But what seemed like a routine kick for the reliable Dawson, who made attempts from 44, 32, 43 and 27 yards, turned into another bizarre moment for the Browns. It was the latest special teams breakdown for Cleveland, which has had two field goals blocked and gave up a touchdown on a faked field goal.
Bradford finished 15 of 26 for 155 yards with a TD and interception. His best completions were handoffs to Jackson, who went over 100 yards for the third game in a row.
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 TD in the first or third quarters.
Dawson's three field goals were all the Browns had to show for the first half when they moved the ball between the 30s.
McCoy's 52-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Greg Little in the final minute put Cleveland at the Rams' 10, but a facemask penalty backed the Browns up and they had to settle for Dawson's 43-yarder on the final play before halftime to close within 10-9.
Looking to spark their stagnant offense, the Browns finally displayed a little razzle-dazzle, delighting their fans.
In the second quarter, Cribbs took the snap in the wildcat and handed it backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, who was lined up wide right. Wallace then pitched it back to McCoy, who started the play lined up near the left sideline. McCoy looked down field before completing a 21-yard pass to Wallace, who played some wide receiver when he was with Seattle.
Bradford's 7-yard TD pass to Lloyd on the first play of the second quarter gave the Rams a 7-3 lead. It was Bradford's fourth TD pass this season, lowest among the league's full-time QBs. Bradford threw 18 TD passes last season as a rookie, fifth most all-time among first-year NFL quarterbacks.
Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.