CLEVELAND — Earnest Byner knew he had a captive audience, so he put on a show.
Byner scored three touchdowns in the third quarter Sunday and helped power the Cleveland Browns to a 38-3 rout of the Atlanta Falcons.
"I have a lot of people back in Georgia, and I was thinking about that before the game," Byner said.
Byner, who grew up in Milledgeville, Ga., ran for touchdowns of 3 and 5 yards and caught a 4-yard scoring pass from Bernie Kosar for a third score as the Browns broke the game open in the third period.
It was the first three-touchdown performance of Byner's career, not counting the three touchdowns he scored against the Falcons in an exhibition game last season.
"I tried to get out there and relax and have a good time," said Byner, a 10th-round draft pick in 1984. "We have the confidence on this team that we can do anything."
But the Browns (5-3) needed a jump start in the second quarter after the Falcons dominated the first quarter with a 10-minute drive that produced no points. The Falcons drove to the Cleveland 31, but two penalties and a sack killed the threat.
Kosar provided the spark with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Webster Slaughter--Kosar's longest of the year and Slaughter's longest in his two NFL seasons--to give Cleveland a 7-0 lead with eight minutes left in the half.
"They were squatting on our routes at about the 15-yard range," Kosar said. "They weren't showing much respect for Webster or myself on deep routes. I just told the line to give me a split second more and I wanted Webster to run a good route. I knew he'd get behind them with his speed."
Atlanta (2-6) has lost all three of its games since the end of the players' strike and has been outscored, 76-3, in its last two games. Cleveland has beaten the Falcons seven times in eight meetings.
Kevin Mack scored on a one-yard dive to give Cleveland a 14-3 lead at the half, and Byner's three scores broke the game open.
The Browns did not allow the Falcons into Cleveland territory in the second half until the game was out of reach with four minutes left.
"If I knew why, I'd be the Albert Einstein of football," said Atlanta quarterback Scott Campbell, who was sacked 7 times and lost 42 yards. "Some good teams can overcome stupid mistakes. We couldn't overcome anything."
Campbell completed 15 of 22 attempts for 169 yards, with 1 interception. Mick Luckhurst kicked a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter for the Falcons' only points.
Jeff Jaeger added a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for Cleveland.
Kosar completed 13 of 23 passes for 192 yards.