Throughout the first part of the season, the Browns jumped at every opportunity to get the ball first. Whenever they won the coin toss, the Browns took the ball. And when the other team won it, they usually wound up with the ball first because of the opponent's deferral.
The results, unfortunately, didn't follow. After opening the season with a touchdown drive, the Browns followed with a field goal and three consecutive punts in Weeks 2-5. Following a Week 7 bye, Cleveland altered its strategy and deferred after winning the coin toss. The results were similarly disappointing in road losses at New England and Denver.
A trip back home, though, flipped the script on the Browns' opening script.
In three consecutive must-win games at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns offense opened the game with a touchdown. Throw in the opening touchdowns Week 1 and Week 6 against the Seahawks, and the Browns have scored touchdowns on their opening drives in five of six home games.
The three most recent ones have been pivotal, allowing Cleveland to jump on its opponents in games it rarely, if ever, trailed.
"I think that is the goal every week is to start fast on offense and get a three-and-out and defense," Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. "We were able to do that. We need to continue doing that moving forward. We have done a good job off and on during the course of the year, but it was good to get both sides on the same page today and do it consistently."
Check out photos of the Browns in action against the Dolphins
All three of these opening drives have ended with Baker Mayfield touchdowns, two coming through the air and one, a 1-yard sneak, on the ground. Each drive had at least one explosive play (20 yards or more), and all three had one of those explosive plays occur within the first three plays of the drive.
On Sunday, it was the first play of the drive, when Mayfield found Nick Chubb on a screen pass that went for 32 yards. Just like that, the Browns were inside Dolphins territory.
"We have been really trying to focus on the first 10-15 plays, make sure we have those down so there is no mental errors or anything like that," offensive guard Joel Bitonio said. "We are doing our best to get something going and it's worked for us."
But did they really expect that first play to do as well as it did?
"We were hoping so," Bitonio said. "We only ran it once in practice. You don't get that many plays in practice, so we were hoping it looked good. He made a couple guys miss and it was awesome."
The key Sunday was the opening drive wasn't just a one-hit wonder like it appeared to be in the previous two games, when Cleveland's offense went cold for lengthy stretches. The Browns piled on with four first-half touchdowns and led by double-digits for the vast majority of the 41-24 victory.
Jarvis Landry, who's been on the receiving end of two of the three game-opening touchdowns, couldn't put his finger on why Cleveland's come out so hot, but he was clear on its importance.
"I know that's been one of the things that has allowed us to be successful and put points up early in the game," Landry said. "Today I think it carried over the second quarter and second half. We were able to at least be in positions to score point whether it's field goals or touchdowns. We have to keep that momentum going."