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ATLANTA (AP) — Arthur Smith said his Atlanta Falcons won’t always be able to run the ball as effectively as they did against the Cleveland Browns, who were missing three starters from their defensive line.

Clearly, the Falcons coach will be happy when he can lean on his running game.

Dee Alford intercepted Jacoby Brissett’s pass with less than a minute to go and the Falcons held on to beat the Browns 23-20 in Sunday’s matchup of the top five rushing attacks.

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett sacked Brissett for an 8-yard loss on the play before the interception.

The Falcons outscored the Browns 202 yards to 177 despite another strong play from Cleveland’s Nick Chubb.

“When you can run the ball and they know you’re going to run it, that says a lot about your guys.” Smith said.

Cleveland was without All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, who was injured in a car accident last Monday. He sustained injuries to his shoulder and biceps, several cuts and bruises, and a ruptured blood vessel in his left eye.

The Browns still kept Atlanta’s passing game in check. Marcus Mariota threw for 139 yards with an interception.

“I always felt that the team that ran the ball the best today was going to win, and luckily they stayed.” Smith said.

The Falcons (2-2) spoiled Chubb’s homecoming to Georgia, who rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown while his high school team watched.

Younghoe Koo’s 45-yard field goal, his third of the game, with 2:28 remaining gave the Falcons the lead.

The Browns (2-2) got past the 50-yard line, but on third-and-23, Alford intercepted Brissett’s pass intended for David Bell.

“It was a bad decision because he chose it,” Brisset said.

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Brissett, the Browns’ backup starter while Deshaun Watson serves his 11-game suspension for alleged sexual misconduct, completed 21 of 35 passes for 234 yards with no touchdowns and the interception.

“He did some good things” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “He wants to play like I want to play the calls. That’s the really frustrating part of this game when you come up short, so we’ll look at that and grow from that.”

Mariota called him “complete team victory”.

“To be able to play all three phases like that I think is huge for us.” Mariota said.

Stefanski questioned himself for passing up points on Cleveland’s first series. On fourth and 3 from the Atlanta 4, Stefanski left his offense on the field and Brissett, forced to throw on the run, threw an incomplete.

“I need to own a big part of that,” Stefanski said. “There are a lot of things you wish you could get back. … We need to come out with points down there in the red zone, especially early on.”

Brissett said he appreciated the opportunity to attempt the touchdown.

“We respect Kevin for giving us that trust,” Brisset said.

The Falcons leaned on a balanced running game led by rookie Tyer Algeier, who had 10 carries for 84 yards, including a 42-yarder. Caleb Huntley and Cordarrelle Patterson ran for touchdowns.

Huntley had only one carry this season before seizing a chance in the second half. Huntley, who was on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster Saturday, had eight carries for 54 yards, including his 5-yard touchdown run that gave the Falcons a 17-13 lead early in the fourth. fourth.

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Cleveland more than doubled Atlanta’s total offense in the first half (245-120 yards), but had to settle for a tie at halftime.

The tie was a fumble by Browns tight end David Njoku. Safety Jaylinn Hawkins forced the fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Rashaan Evans at the Cleveland 31-yard line.

Patterson’s 11-yard run three plays later gave the Falcons a 10-0 lead.

The Browns tied it on Brissett’s 5-yard touchdown run and Cade York’s 29-yard field goal.

A week after setting a career rushing record for the second time in three weeks with 141 yards against Seattle, Patterson rushed for 38 yards on nine carries. He was limited by sore knee in practice for most of the week.

HOMECOMING

Chubb, with his Cedartown (Georgia) High School team, family and friends watching from the stands, scrambled down the left end for a 28-yard touchdown run that gave Cleveland a 20-17 lead and pushed it to over 100 yards. Chubb began the day as the NFL’s leading rusher. He worked out with his high school team, about an hour from Atlanta, in the offseason.

NEW STARTERS

Rookie Alex Wright and Isaac Rochell were backup starters at defensive end for Cleveland. Jadeveon Clowney missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Garrett, who was injured when he lost control of his Porsche while accelerating, was ruled out Saturday.

Browns defensive tackle Taven Bryan (hamstring) also did not play.

INJURIES

Browns backup running back Jerome Ford left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter.

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Browns: Host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

Falcons: At Tampa Bay on Sunday.


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