CLEVELAND — The Browns rediscovered running back Duke Johnson.
All it took was a change at offensive coordinator.
Johnson caught a team- and season-high nine passes for 78 yards Sunday, including touchdowns of 19 and 5 yards. He rushed once for 8 yards in the 37-21 loss to the Chiefs.
“Love it. He needs to get the ball even more,” receiver Jarvis Landry said.
Johnson was the team’s best playmaker a year ago, totaling 1,041 yards from scrimmage. Through the first eight games this year, he had 310 on 20 catches and 22 runs as coordinator Todd Haley failed to make him a bigger part of the offense despite the urging of coach Hue Jackson.
Jackson and Haley were fired Monday, and Freddie Kitchens moved from running backs coach to coordinator. Quarterback Baker Mayfield said Kitchens made it a point to get the playmakers more involved.
“Duke made a bunch of plays for us today,” Mayfield said. “Obviously he’s one of our playmakers, so whenever we get a chance to get him going, that’s the type of play we expect him to have. That’s what he’s capable of, and that’s what he’s shown time in and time out when you get him involved that much. So we’ve got to continue to build on that.”
Johnson had multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time in his four-year career.
“Just giving the team chances to stay in the game, just getting opportunities to help this team win,” Johnson told Clevelandbrowns.com. “Freddie’s calling the plays freely going with what he thinks is going to work. He’s getting his playmakers the ball.”
His teammates were relieved to see him finally join the action.
“He had big plays after big plays for us, got first downs, got us close,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “You get him the ball, he gets yards for ya.”
Interim coach Gregg Williams credited Kitchens with dusting off the gem.
“Freddie did a good job,” he said.
IN GOOD HANDS
John Dorsey’s imprint was all over the game. He was general manager for the Chiefs from 2013 until June 2017, then hired by the Browns for the same role in December.
Defensive end Myles Garrett said the Chiefs players brought up their former boss after the game.
“They were excited for us that we have Dorsey,” he said.
Mayfield said watching the star-studded Chiefs roster gives him hope for the future of the Browns with Dorsey at the helm.
“Absolutely. We believe in what he’s doing,” he said. “We believe in the guys that he’s brought in here and everything they’re about.
“It’s about the culture. That’s where it starts. He established a culture there. He brought in the right pieces. And you’ve got to get people to believe in that.”
Cornerback E.J. Gaines could miss extended time following his second concussion in three weeks. He returned Sunday after missing two games and left in the first quarter after taking a knee to the head when he went low to try to tackle Kareem Hunt on a screen that went for a 50-yard touchdown.
“That was a cruncher. It was a loud one,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “It was a violent blow right there.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes waved for the medical staff.
“Football is family,” he said. “Everybody knows what we all go through, nobody wants anyone to be injured.”
** Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward left in the first quarter with a hip injury, and Williams didn’t have an update after the game.
Seldom-used cornerbacks Denzel Rice and Tavierre Thomas were forced into action.
** Linebacker Christian Kirksey (hamstring) exited in the second quarter.
Chiefs linebacker and Clearview High School graduate Anthony Hitchens tied for the team lead with eight tackles, all solo. He did so despite a painful rib injury.
He was listed as questionable on the injury report after taking a helmet to the ribs last week against Denver. He started Sunday but left for a bit, and the injury was announced as ribs. He returned to have a large impact.
“Hitchens and (receiver) Tyreek (Hill) did a real nice job of playing today,” Reid said. “They were tender coming in, but they pushed through and all that, and did a nice job of playing.”
Hitchens was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for knocking the ball out of tight end David Njoku’s hands after a play.
Greg Robinson started at left tackle for the struggling Desmond Harrison and did an admirable job. Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford entered with eight sacks and was held to just one tackle.
Robinson, the No. 2 pick of the Rams in 2014, saw limited action in the first eight games as an extra lineman but got the start after Harrison came up ill. He didn’t practice Friday and was inactive.
Mayfield singled out Robinson twice in his interview.
“He played well,” Mayfield said.
Free safety Damarious Randall was inactive after testing his injured groin before the game. Williams said it was his decision to sit Randall because he wants him to get healthy after playing through injuries for much of the season.
“He has been battling, and I just wanted to get him fully ready to roll,” Williams said.
** Garrett had a sack to give him nine, the most in franchise history through nine weeks of the season.
** Rice recorded his first career interception.