As Phil Dawson headed out to try a 48-yard field goal late in the first quarter Sunday, an image came to him of a Week 1 miss. From that very distance and that very spot in his first attempt with the 49ers.
He had a hard time pushing that moment out of mind, a kick that he hooked wide left in his San Francisco debut in September against Green Bay.
Probably not the best kicking karma right there.
"As I'm jogging out onto the field I'm remembering that," Dawson recalled. "I have to be quite honest it probably wasn't the most positive mental picture in terms of having confidence where to aim. I took what I learned from that first time and tried to put it into action. It worked out."
The field goal was Dawson's second of four against the rival Seattle Seahawks, and every one mattered in Sunday's 19-17 victory that put the 49ers at 9-4. The 48-yarder gave Dawson 18 straight converted field goals to match a franchise record by Joe Nedney in 2006-07, then Dawson connected on two more to take the record for himself. His 22-yarder with 26 seconds remaining became the winner and No. 20 in a row.
Not that Dawson is counting — or even worries about such things.
"I have a lot of respect for the way he works at his craft," said 49ers special teams coach Brad Seely, who also worked with Dawson in Cleveland. "He's been good for a long time in a really hard place to kick. I knew if he came out here he would have success because where he's been kicking for years, it's a hard place. But they didn't have much success as a team, so you didn't ever hear much about him. He's been probably the best player on that team in Cleveland for a long time."
Dawson also holds the Browns' record for consecutive field goals with 27, making him one of just three kickers with such a streak for two teams. Olindo Mare did it with Miami and Seattle, while Neil Rackers accomplished it playing for Arizona and Houston, according to STATS.
Dawson is on quite the roll as he heads home to his native Florida for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay (4-9).
"That's what I hear," Dawson said with a smile. "I've been through this and learn each time I go through it. You just have to treat every kick the same, whether you made the last one or missed the last one. Sometimes I don't know which one's harder to get over to be quite honest."
Dawson has made 23 of 26 field goals overall, giving the 49ers a steady presence in the kicking game after David Akers struggled down the stretch a year ago.
Dawson doesn't take any kick for granted, especially in the unpredictable elements of Candlestick Park and its infamous wind.
"With the conditions being what they were, every kick required your full attention. You couldn't take anything for granted, even with the last one being a little short one. Everything had to go right and fortunately it did."
Dawson went 29 for 31 on field goals last season in his 14th year with the Browns, making all 13 attempts from 40 yards or beyond, including 7 for 7 from 50-plus.
The 49ers signed him to a one-year contract in March.
Even punter Andy Lee, who holds for Dawson, didn't expect him to be this spot-on down the stretch — especially at Candlestick.
"I knew he was a solid kicker. I don't think you expect any kicker to make 20 in a row," Lee said. "I knew he was going to be a great asset to the team, and I knew he was going to come in and do a great job here. To hit 20 in a row, would you say that exceeds the expectations? Yeah. That's not normal. Especially here, and we haven't had the best conditions other places either."
And, if Dawson gets his way, the 49ers will still be playing past his 39th birthday on Jan. 23.
"Phil works on the days he doesn't have to," linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. "That's what makes players great. He was perfect. We needed him. The game came down to him and he stepped up."
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