When Phil Dawson greeted the media on Sunday, the 49ers kicker asked, "Slow news day?"
On the contrary.
The 49ers kicker, not used to postgame attention, merited all of it when afternoon turned to evening.
Dawson's four field goals, including a game-winner with 31 seconds left on the clock, gave San Francisco a much-needed – and much-appreciated – 19-17 victory over the visiting Seattle Seahawks.
"We needed him," said the defense's leader, NaVorro Bowman, who made nine tackles, including a first-quarter strip-sack. "Game came down to him, and he stepped up for us."
The four successful tries also gave the 15-year veteran a franchise record in his first year with the team: Dawson has now made 20 straight three-point tries.
"I try not to think about it. I try to treat every kick the same," he said of his streak. "You have to have a bad memory. Unfortunately, I have a very good memory; I remember my last miss."
Dawson shouldn't be so hard on himself. The kicker's last two misses, both at St. Louis in Week 4, measured 53 yards and 71 yards.
The ex-Cleveland Browns Pro Bowler connected from 23, 48, 52 and, ultimately, 22 against Seattle's special teams unit.
The first three field goals gave the 49ers a 9-7, second-quarter lead. Dawson wouldn't kick again until his team's final possession in the fourth.
After a 51-yard Frank Gore run to the Seahawks 18-yard line and an eight-yard run by Colin Kaepernick on 3rd-and-7, Dawson started going through his sideline routine.
"When I'm kicking into the net, I pay attention to where the ball is being snapped," he said. "If it's the right hash, I'll pretend I'm kicking from the right hash. Especially in that situation, where we (called) a timeout after third down, I knew the ball was (situated) in the middle, so I made sure I got one last kick in the middle to get that muscle memory. So that when I get out there, and the pressure is there and you're nervous and all those kinds of things, the muscle memory just takes and hopefully you make kick.
"I have to credit the offense. It was tough sledding, moving the ball, and not only did they get it in range, they got well in there, so it was a pretty manageable kick. If that same kick was 25 yards further, it would have been pretty difficult."
After three straight Gore runs into the middle of the pile, Dawson found himself staring down the 22-yard attempt.
"My primary concern at that point was (defensive end) Red Bryant. He blocks lot of kicks," Dawson said. "We knew coming into this game that they were going get good push up the middle and I needed to get the ball up quickly.
"It was definitely the type of conditions where you have to pay attention to every little thing."
Given the cold weather, 43 degrees at kickoff, Dawson welcomed the shorter attempt. The shorter it is, the less time the wind has to shift the ball side to side.
His kick was true.
"I got to enjoy it," he said, "while the ball is going where it's supposed to."