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Browns focused on finishing strong, but another fast start remains just as important

The Browns have placed heavy emphasis this week on finishing games after their 33-29 loss, but they’re also placing emphasis on replicating their fast start that helped them establish a commanding lead 

The Browns didn't need an in-depth review of their tape from Sunday's Week 1 loss in Kansas City to know they must do a better job of finishing games.

That was evident as the Chiefs began to accumulate their 23 points in the second half of the Browns' 33-29 loss. Players and coaches stressed the point in their postgame interviews and lamented several late-game errors that gave the Chiefs an opportunity to come back after originally being down 22-10 at halftime.

"It's a 60-minute game," coach Kevin Stefanski said after the game. "You don't get anything for playing a 30-minute game."

True, but the Browns aren't overlooking the importance of those first 30 minutes, either.

Cleveland was nearly perfect in that span. The Browns scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the game and possessed the ball for nearly a full quarter of the first half. The defense, meanwhile, limited the Chiefs' offense full of Pro Bowl playmakers to just 10 points. 

That was the fast start the Browns needed to give them a shot to win. Aggressive play calls, sound defensive play and cohesion on both sides of the ball helped them get there, and the Browns are emphasizing the importance of maintaining that kind of start just as much as the message to finish games.

"I think the best part about it was getting off to a fast start," WR Jarvis Landry said. "That's something we have to continue to do: getting off to a great start and then finding ways to finish."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Houston Texans

Landry, a five-time Pro Bowl WR, played an integral role in helping the Browns accomplish their fast start, but he did so in ways beyond catching the football. 

His first touch didn't come from a reception, but rather a rush. He received a handoff at Chiefs' 5-yard line as he audibled in front of quarterback Baker Mayfield and ran through a few Chiefs defenders and into the end zone.

That play was one of many innovative calls from Stefanski that ultimately helped the Browns gain an early edge. The usage of third-round rookie speedster WR Anthony Schwartz, who got behind the defense for a 44-yard catch and also took a handoff for a 17-yard gain, was part of it, too. So were the Browns opting to go for it — and converting — on two fourth-down calls in the first quarter that led to touchdowns.

"It was a good start," guard Joel Bitonio said. "It felt good. I felt the offense did a lot of good things out there. I think we ran the ball really well. We were really efficient."

As a result of the sustained offensive success, the defense felt refreshed and had plenty of energy to be great in the first half, too. That was part of the reason why they prevented the Chiefs from finding the end zone on two of their first three drives and gave the Browns a shot to win once the second half began.

Yes, things unraveled late in the second half — nobody is making excuses for the 75-yard Tyreek Hill touchdown catch that gave the Chiefs their first lead of the game — but they wouldn't have been in a spot to lead in the fourth quarter without the strong first half.

"We played fast. We played physical," safety John Johnson III said. "We definitely gave ourselves a chance to win. You do not want to give up that many points or that many yards, but I think there are definitely some highlights from that game."

The Browns have shown no interest in discussing that fast start as a "moral victory" from Sunday's game. Rather, they're using it as an example on how they need to continue to start games in the future.

"It's easier said than done," Landry said, "but at the same time, if we can continue to stay on track with starting fast and being able to finish late, that is something that will be important to our team."

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