ATLANTA (AP) — Dee Alford intercepted Jacoby Brissett's pass with less than a minute remaining and the Atlanta Falcons held on to beat the Cleveland Browns 23-20 on Sunday.
The Falcons (2-2) spoiled the Georgia homecoming of Cleveland's Nick Chubb, who ran for 118 yards and a touchdown with his high school team watching.
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) moved past the 50 but on third and 23, Alford picked off Brissett's pass intended for David Bell.
“It was a bad decision because he picked it,” Brissett said.
Brissett, the Browns' fill-in 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,” said Browns coach Kevin Stefanski. “He wants plays back like I want play calls back. That’s the really frustrating part of this game when you come up short, so we’ll look at it and grow from it.”
Atlanta's Marcus Mariota passed for only 139 yards with an interception. He called the game a “complete team win.”
“To be able to play all three phases that way I think is huge for us,” Mariota said.
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Stefanski second-guessed himself for passing up points on Cleveland's opening drive. 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 incompletion.
“I need to own a large part of that,” Stefanski said. “A lot of things you wish you could take back.”
Brissett said he appreciated the opportunity to go for the touchdown.
“We respect Kevin for giving us that trust,” Brissett said.
The Falcons leaned on a balanced running attack led by rookie Tyer Algeier, who had 10 carries for 84 yards.
Caleb Huntley and Cordarrelle Patterson each ran for touchdowns.
“When you can run the ball and they know you’re going to run it, that speaks volumes for your guys,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said.
Chubb, with his Cedartown (Georgia) High School team watching from the stands, broke free around left end for a 28-yard touchdown run that gave Cleveland a 20-17 lead and pushed him 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.
Atlanta tied the game with Koo's 21-yard field goal.
Huntley had only one carry this season before he seized an opportunity in the second half. Huntley, who was on the practice squad before being elevated to the active roster on Saturday, had eight carries for 54 yards, including his 5-yard scoring run that gave the Falcons a 17-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland more than doubled Atlanta's total offense in the first half — 245 to 120 yards — but had to settle for a halftime tie.
The equalizer was a lost fumble by Browns tight end David Njoku. Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins forced the fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Rashaan Evans at the Cleveland 31.
Patterson's 11-yard scoring run three plays later gave the Falcons a 10-0 lead.
The Browns pulled even on Brissett's 5-yard scoring run and Cade York's 29-yard field goal.
One week after setting a career rushing high for the second time in three weeks with 141 yards against Seattle, Patterson ran for 38 yards on nine carries. He was limited by a sore knee in practice most of the week.
Rookie Alex Wright and Isaac Rochell were fill-in starters at defensive end for Cleveland. Jadeveon Clowney missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury. On Saturday, the Browns ruled out Myles Garrett as he recovers from injuries in a car wreck on Monday. Garrett hurt his shoulder, biceps, had several cuts and bruises, and broke a blood vessel in his left eye when he lost control of his car while speeding.
Browns defensive tackle Taven Bryan (hamstring) also did not play.
Browns backup running back Jerome Ford left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter.
Browns: Host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
Falcons: At Tampa Bay on Sunday.