The Cleveland Browns beat the Denver Broncos in a defensive battle. Both offenses had multiple turnovers and trouble sustaining momentum throughout the game. The Browns defense was especially impressive, allowing just 16 points and 270 yards of total offense. Cleveland stymied the Broncos usually strong run game to just 32 total yards rushing. The Browns defense led the team to the victory.
One of the stars of the Browns defense was safety Jabrill Peppers. In the game, Peppers had six tackles, two tackles for a loss, one pass defended, one quarterback hit, one sack, and one interception. He had one of the best games of his young career. He was able to make some very impactful plays for the defense that changed the game for the Browns.
In this week’s Browns film room, I will take a look at four impact plays that Peppers made on Saturday to diagnose how he was able to make the play. So, let’s roll the tape.
Q1 4:07 2nd-and-goal: Keenum to Booker, tackled by Peppers for a two-yard gain
This play by Peppers was all hustle and great tackling. The Browns defense is in a 2nd-and-goal situation at the three-yard line. The Broncos come out in a shotgun with five out wide. Peppers is lined up in man coverage against the tight end in the left slot. Broncos quarterback Case Keenum fires the pass to the running back Devontae Booker, who was running a flat route from his spot to the left of Peppers’ man. When the ball is caught, Booker stops and eludes the tackle attempt by linebacker Joe Schobert. With that missed tackle, it looked like a foregone conclusion that Booker would get into the endzone. But, Peppers does not take the tackle for granted and immediately heads outside when the pass is made. The safety is able to get outside quick enough before Booker can get too far upfield. And, Peppers finishes the play off with a great tackle that brings down Booker before he can stretch into the endzone. Peppers made the effort (and the great tackle) that saved a touchdown for at least one play.
Q2 1:50 3rd-and-10: Keenum intercepted by Peppers
This was probably the most impressive play of the game for Peppers. Peppers is lined up deep on the right side of the field. The Broncos come out in a shotgun with four out wide and a running back in the backfield. When the ball is snapped, safety Damarious Randall drops down from his deep safety spot to come to the left intermediate area of the field. Peppers is tasked to be the deep safety to cover over top. Peppers then just follows the eyes of Keenum, who is staring down the left side of the field where two receivers are running routes downfield. Peppers heads to the left sideline to try and get into position to make a play on a pass to one of the receivers on the left side. The safety starts to head to the left before the pass is even thrown, allowing Peppers to undercut the pass on the left sideline and make a big interception. This was great instincts, athleticism, and intelligence to read the play and to run across the field in time to pick off the pass.
Q3 2:34 2nd-and-5: Keenum to Hamilton, tackled by Peppers for a three-yard loss
For this play, Peppers is lined up in the box over the right side of the offensive formation. Out of the shotgun, the Broncos call a fake handoff to the running back, with the motion going to the right side of the field. It is a misdirection to hide the real target in the play. Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton is lined up near the right end of the line at the snap. When the ball is snapped, Hamilton tries to slip across the formation to the left and into the flat. With the whole offense flowing to the right, Hamilton is hoping he can slip out to the left without any notice. Peppers is in charge of the tight end lined up in the left slot back position. He keeps his eye on the tight end at the snap, but when he sees Hamilton slipping out to the flat, he quickly picks up Hamilton. Peppers reads the eyes of Keenum and decides to go full force to cover Hamilton out in the flat. When Keenum unloads the pass to Hamilton, Peppers is right there to quickly react and make a big tackle for a loss. This play showed off Peppers athleticism and quick recognition skills.
Q4 :43 4th-and-10: Keenum sacked by Peppers for an 11-yard loss
This play helped clinch the victory for the Browns. The Broncos line up in a shotgun with four out wide and a running back in the backfield. When Denver motions a tight end from the right sideline to the right slot back position, Peppers moves inside to line up across from that tight end. At first, it looks like Peppers is called to cover the tight end. But when the ball is snapped, he starts to blitz the quarterback. This is where another intricate detail comes into play. Following the game, Peppers said that he read the play and protection and knew what he could do to exploit it based on what happened earlier in the game. Peppers stutters a little and fakes like he is going to go inside and blitz through the middle of the line. This slight stutter allowed the blocking to set up where a huge gap was formed on the right of the right tackle. Peppers then goes through that gap with full speed and sacks Keenum before the quarterback could react. It was a beautiful play by the safety.
The highlight of the game versus the Denver Broncos was safety Jabrill Peppers. He had six tackles, two tackles for a loss, one pass defended, one quarterback hit, one sack, and one interception. As I illustrated in the film room, he made huge plays that helped change the game for the Browns. It was one of the best performances of his young career.
The lowlight of the game versus the Denver Broncos was not the game, but what transpired on Sunday. The Browns needed a lot of help to get into the playoffs. On Sunday, almost everything the Browns needed to happen did not happen and went against the Browns. The Steelers, Colts, Titans, and Ravens winning really cut into the hope that the Browns could eke into the playoffs.