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Fast starts giving Browns an early jolt, new areas to improve

It took 10 weeks for the Browns to score a touchdown in the first quarter.

What's followed is a sort of opening of the flood gates, a transition that's been in the works since Freddie Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator Week 9 against the Chiefs.

The Browns came out firing Sunday in Cincinnati, marching down the field for touchdowns on their first four drives. The only thing that stopped them was the clock, and they picked up where they left off with a touchdown on their first possession in the second half.

"We had a focus on packaging, and also put together some specialty packages that we thought would cause some stresses for them. Especially, early in the game," coach Gregg Williams said. ""I thought Freddie and the offensive group did a good job with our game plan this week. Throughout the game we substituted those packages well, and I thought Baker (Mayfield) did a good job managing those adjustments, too."

The Browns didn't find the end zone in the first quarter against the Chiefs in Week 9, but the progress was apparent. They mounted drives of nine and 11 plays, respectively, but had just a field goal to show for it. In the second quarter, Cleveland scored touchdowns on back to back drives, but the damage done by Kansas City's quick-strike offense was too much to overcome.

Against Atlanta and Cincinnati, the Browns cashed in on their early opportunities to build leads they'd largely hold from start to finish. The comebacks that were required in both of the Browns' wins earlier in the season weren't necessary because Cleveland took care of business early to put the opponent on its heels.

Three of Mayfield's seven touchdown passes in the past two games have come in the first quarter.

"Good calls and good execution," Mayfield said Sunday. "My offensive line and our guys were making plays. They're protecting, I'm getting the ball out quickly, getting it into our playmakers' hands, and they're doing the rest."

The fast starts have presented a new obstacle Cleveland is looking to conquer: How to close games with as little drama as possible.

Though the Browns won both of their last two games by multiple scores, the Falcons and Bengals hung around a little longer than they would have prefered. Atlanta and Cincinnati each possessed the ball for more than 10 minutes in the fourth quarter, a byproduct of the offense not being able to milk the clock and the defense allowing lengthy scoring drives.

It's a good problem to have, sure, but the Browns want that same kind of early firepower to sustain for all 60 minutes.

"Let's eliminate all of the excuses," Williams said. "We left some yards out on the table. We left some plays out on the table and not just on offense but on defense, too. We dropped some interceptions. We had some penalties that extended some drives. On special teams, we did not kick the ball in the right spot a couple of times. We did not contain a couple of returns. All of those things right there are ways to get better in the second half or it could have been an even more exaggerated win. 

"Those are good things that we have to deal with today after a win, but there are things that we are not going to disguise, we are not going to sugarcoat and we have to get better to be the best team that we can be."