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Browns' biggest plays under offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens' rooted in trust

Freddie Kitchens settled on how he wanted to set the tone roughly five days before the Browns took on the Panthers.

The Browns offensive coordinator wanted to go deep on the first play, utilizing his rookie quarterback's underrated arm strength and the top strength of one of the team's most pleasant surprises. Baker Mayfield would fake a hand-off, Breshad Perriman would run as fast as he could down the sidelines, and the ball would fall perfectly in the wide receiver's arms for the kind of early-game jolt that can linger through the rest of the game.

That's how Kitchens pictured it unfolding in the days leading up to the game, and that's how it looked when the Browns executed it to perfection.

None of it was by accident, including the intangible effects.

"I do not think that we had anybody that doubted but some people may have doubted – whatever it is, who you are playing, they come into play sometimes with that," Kitchens said. "It just gives confidence to the group that, 'hey, we can do what we said.' 

"When you tell them that we are going to do something and they knew that we were going to do that the first play of the game, when you tell them that you are going to do it and you do it and it is successful, then you have built some validity to the fact of what you wanted to do, what you tried to do and what they were going to do."

That philosophy is apparent when analyzing some of the biggest plays Cleveland has executed since Kitchens took over the play-calling Week 9. Some have worked out perfectly like Mayfield's bomb to Perriman. Others, such as a trick-play pass by Dontrell Hilliard in the Browns' win over the Falcons, have failed.

Asked if he's calling plays with "nothing to lose," Kitchens bristled a bit. He disagreed because the plays he's calling, no matter how outside-the-box some might appear to be, are designed to maximize the skill sets and trust he has in the players called upon to execute them.

"You do not call plays to be unsuccessful," Kitchens said. "I don't care. I am calling the play to win that game. It does not matter at what point of the year I started. I know the way I was going to do it from the very beginning, and that is not going to change. It does not matter what game, how big the game was or whatever or who we are playing."

Never has this mindset been more apparent than in two similar, late-game situations when the Browns, clinging to a lead, were pinned deep in their own territory. In the position to simply take as much time off the clock as possible, Kitchens put the game in the Mayfield's hands and called for him to throw.

Facing a first-and-10 at the Browns' 1-yard line late in the action against the Falcons, Kitchens dialed up a play-action pass to Antonio Callaway. Mayfield put it where he needed, and the Browns picked up 14 yards and, more importantly, some much-needed breathing room. Last week against the Panthers, with Cleveland facing a second-and-11 at the 2, Mayfield thrived just like he did the previous time. The rookie quarterback rolled to his right roughly 5 yards inside the end zone and found Perriman for a crucial first down.

Most outside the organization would consider those play calls to be bold or brash. To Kitchens, it was all about tasking his players to execute what he knows they're capable of accomplishing.

"I have trust that (Mayfield) is going to make the plays, I have trust that the line is going to protect and I have trust that the receivers are going to make the play when he puts it in the air," Kitchens said. "I told you guys a long time ago that this is about trust and respect, and I think we are building that."