The numbers at the end of Thursday's preseason loss to the Falcons weren't what the Browns defense wanted to see.
Perhaps none bothered the group more than the 224 rushing yards surrendered over the course of the 24-13 loss at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Falcons picked away at the Browns' first-team defense on their way to 78 rushing yards in the first half. The lanes grew bigger in the second half when second- and third-teamers manned both sides of the line of scrimmage.
"I think we're seeing a common theme that people are starting to run the ball at us pretty good," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "We need to get that shored up fast."
In last week's preseason opener, the first-team defense didn't surrender any points but struggled to get off the field, as Green Bay set up itself with a number of easy third-and-shorts because of its successful runs on first and second down. On Thursday, the Falcons first-team offense used the pass to set up their running attack, as Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman picked up steady gains in the midst of pass plays that kept the chains moving. On third-and-1 from the 19 -- the Falcons' third third-and-1 of the opening drive -- Freeman ran all the way for a touchdown.
The Browns' first-teamers were better from that point forward, but that didn't completely absolve the rough beginning to Thursday's game.
"We started off a little slow. We need to try to eliminate the big plays," linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "We regrouped. We were able to calm down and really see what was going on to see what they were throwing at us. We just came together on the sideline. The first series wasn't us. It was pretty much just a refocus thing."
The Browns played the Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium for the second game of the preseason.
Asked to evaluate what went wrong, players and Jackson came back to one overriding theme: the tackling needs to be better than it was Thursday.
"We are in good positions. We just have to play. It all comes down to tackling. That's what football is all about, tackling the ball," Kirksey said. "When we watch film, we are going to see all the miss tackles that we had. We can't be a good defense if we can't tackle. It's just some of the things we need to work on."
Jackson shared a similar anticipation for today's film session. Teaching opportunities abound as Cleveland prepares for its joint practices in Tampa next week.
"What happens when you start spreading a leak, everybody tries to cover up for another guy because I'm going to cover up for this guy, and I think we need to do that better, but more so than that I think we have got to tackle better," Jackson said. "There were a lot of missed tackles tonight. I can't wait to watch the tape to see exactly how many missed tackles we had, but we have to be a better tackling football team.
"This is a work in progress. We get it, and we have to do it better than what we're doing."