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Browns show improvement, but fall to Falcons, 24-13

CLEVELAND —In the days leading up the Browns' preseason home opener against Atlanta, Hue Jackson hoped the Browns would make a jump of improvement, saying a mistake-prone outing against the Packers last week opened their young eyes to work still needed to be accomplished.

And after a 24-13 loss to the Falcons Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, there is still work to be done.

But the Browns made good of that lesson in Green Bay with an effort that seemed to reflect marked improvement after turnovers and miscues undid the Browns in their previous outing.

Jackson, the first-year coach who spoke with a sense of urgency following that game, likened the performance to something of an eye-opener for a new-look roster still coming into shape.

And the Browns didn't allow the same mistakes in front of their home crowd. Instead, the Cleveland first-team offense was electric, totaling 159 yards, six first downs and a gutsy fourth-down conversion in the first half.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III passed for 96 yards and two touchdowns — a 50-yard rocket to receiver Terrelle Pryor and a 29-yarder to Gary Barnidge, who tucked the pass into his waist and dove headfirst into the endzone.

"I don't think we're well-oiled yet, but I see potential of us being what I think we can be," Jackson said of the Browns offense. "I thought (Griffin) played pretty well, thought he did a good job of taking care of the ball and distributing the ball to some of our playmakers."

But the Browns — who shook off a slow start in exchange for a 13-10 at halftime — still have considerable room to improve. 

"The second half, I didn't think we played as well. To me, there was a huge drop off," Jackson said, "and there are some guys that we just have to get better and we have to get them better in a hurry."

For as explosive as Cleveland's offense was on Thursday night, the unit finished 1-of-8 on third down. "I thought we did a better job on offense of taking care of the ball," Jackson said, "but third down is still one of our Achilles' heel."

The defense — a work in progress as it tries to get the most out of its players' various skillsets — gave up 499 yards and 31 first downs and struggled to slow down Atlanta's first-half run game.

"I think we're seeing a common theme that people are starting to run the ball at us pretty good, and we need to get that shored up fast," Jackson said. "We obviously have to cover better. We have some work to do on our football team." "We need to freshen up some things, some missed tackles. We have to freshen that up, but we're flying around and getting to the ball," outside linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "We held them to 78 rushing yards [in the first half]. We have to bring that down because we want to keep them under 100."

The Browns are set to travel to Tampa next for their third preseason game against the Buccaneers.

And of course, Jackson said, the work continues in Florida.

"I understand the process we're in," he said, "and we're just going to keep working at this thing."

The Browns host the Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium.

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