It's only been two games against opponents with poor defensive rankings, but give new Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens some credit.

So far, he has capitalized on his opportunity as a first-time play caller.

The Browns racked up 427 yards Sunday in their 28-16 upset win over the Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium. In their eight games under former offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was fired Oct. 29 along with coach Hue Jackson, the Browns compiled more yards and scored more points just once. On Sept. 30, they had 487 yards (482 during regulation) in a 45-42 overtime loss on the road to the Oakland Raiders in Week 4.

In the aftermath of the firings, the offense gained 388 yards and showed progress in last week's 37-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Then it took a big step Sunday to help the Browns (3-6-1) snap a four-game losing streak in one of their best all-around performances in years.

"Until you get in the most stressful situations in life, you really don't know everything about a person," Browns interim coach Gregg Williams said Monday during a conference call. "... Not that [Kitchens] has been stressed, but he has been asked to do more, too, and I feel like, 'Boy, that's a pretty good coach over there.'

"I'm real proud of him, and I feel really good for him. He got an opportunity and [Browns] ownership provided that opportunity, decided that's what they wanted to do, and he has done a very good job. I have been impressed, and we have had some good times behind the scenes talking about the things he continues to want to do.

"There has been a really good sharing of ideas. There has been a really good asking opinions of each other over forcing opinions of each other, and I think he has done a very good job with that, and I think he'll continue to grow."

Kitchens hasn't changed Haley's system or playbook, but he has picked the brains of his players to find out what they're most comfortable doing. Then he's implemented those things into his game plans.

Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has raved about Kitchens as a collaborator, and the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft had the best outing of his young NFL career against the Falcons (4-5), who came to Cleveland on a three-game winning streak.

Mayfield went 17-of-20 passing (85 percent) for 216 yards and three touchdowns for a rating of 151.2. He finished a game without a turnover or sack for the first time in the regular season, and he improved to 2-5 as a starter with the Browns, who are on their bye week.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Mayfield was blitzed by the Falcons on 10 of 23 dropbacks and went 7-of-8 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown for a perfect rating of 158.3.

"Freddie and Baker have to have that same kind of synergy, and it will only continue to get better," Williams said. "Both of their styles and both of their personalities, they respect each other. They both understand each other. When that respect is well enough, maybe they might even like each other later on."

The same can be said for Kitchens and Williams finding chemistry.

"I feel very comfortable," Williams said, "and I praise the staff tremendously on the last two weeks on how we have been a complementary fashioned offense, defense and special teams working together, how we manage the clock, how we managed the timeouts and how we managed the situations."

 

Reducing workload

Williams had hoped to give defensive end Myles Garrett fewer snaps earlier in the season, but it didn't happen until Sunday, when Garrett played 50-of-75 snaps (67 percent). Garrett's previous low for play-time percentage this season had been 83.

"We had a kind of a target a couple of weeks ago to reduce some time, but the games just were not unfolding like that," Williams said. "To be truthful, too, some of the guys that were in some of the backup roles were not ready yet. They have put a lot of good time in behind the scenes, have practiced better and then all of a sudden have earned — I want to emphasize this — they have earned the right to play more."

Defensive ends Anthony Zettel (25 snaps) and Chris Smith (22 snaps) got a bump in playing time.

Garrett, who has nine sacks this year, tallied one tackle against the Falcons, and, according to PFF, he rushed the passer 34 times without a pressure. It was the first time this season Garrett finished a game without a pressure.

Williams said Garrett's health is "all right."

 

O-line watch

Veteran Greg Robinson received praise from coaches and teammates for the second week in a row, a sign he won't relinquish the starting left tackle job to undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison, who had been struggling in pass protection during the first half of the season and was inactive the past two games with an illness.

Williams stopped short of committing to Robinson as the starter moving forward, but any other outcome would be shocking.

"I thought he played well, and I'm saying this not to blow smoke or whatever, but we'll continue to evaluate [the starting left tackle job] day by day and continue to evaluate that practice by practice," Williams said. "I thought he played well in his first start. I thought he played well yesterday. He had a couple of things in penalties and a couple of technique things, but I thought he played well."

 

Extra points

• Rookie running back Nick Chubb gained 155 of his 176 rushing yards Sunday after contact, according to PFF. Chubb, whose 92-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter was the longest run in Browns history, led the NFL with an average of 7.75 yards after contact per attempt.

• Williams said the defense was "more uniform" than it had been because of starting middle linebacker Joe Schobert's return from a hamstring injury. After missing three games, Schobert had seven tackles, and, per PFF, allowed just one catch on four targets for 2 yards. He also generated a quarterback pressure.

• The defense's improved tackling pleased Williams. "We tackled in the parking lot last week. We tackled in the meeting room. We tackled in the cafeteria. We tackled in the walkthroughs, and we tackled in practice. All of a sudden, it's not a surprise that we tackled on game day," Williams said.

• Browns General Manager John Dorsey is scheduled to hold a bye week news conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday.