Jabrill Peppers didn’t mince words about how the Browns are treating Saturday’s primetime showdown against the Broncos.
The Browns’ margin for error is as thin as it gets. A loss eliminates Cleveland from any hope of playoff contention. A win keeps the dream alive for another week.
That’s the mentality for Saturday, and it’s been the mentality for the previous few weeks, too.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Peppers as the team prepared for its cross-country flight to Denver.
CB.com: Is the team treating this game like a playoff game?
Peppers: Every week’s a playoff week.
CB.com: Has that been the mentality since Day 1?
Peppers: Once we really realized that if we take care of what we have to take care of, every game is a must-win. That’s the mindset you’ve got to have. Playoffs bring a little extra umph to the games, and that’s how we’re approaching it.
CB.com: Has that carried over to practice?
CB.com: What have the competitive periods been like these last few weeks?
Peppers: Just that. Very competitive. We’re trying to get ready to go out there Saturday, primetime and execute. No mental errors, no mistakes and put it all together.
CB.com: Defensively, what did you take away from last week against Carolina?
Peppers: We were very stout in the red zone but we had a lot of mental mistakes, a lot of missed tackles that allowed them to get into scoring opportunities. We have to minimize those if we want to win this game.
CB.com: How do you guys work on tackling during the season?
Peppers: It’s just a mindset. We’ve been playing this game long enough. Everybody knows how to tackle at this point. It’s just a mindset, it’s about the want-to. That’s the attitude we have to bring.
CB.com: You mentioned the goal-line stand. That was something the team did a few weeks earlier against the Falcons. Did that confidence carry over into the situation against the Panthers?
Peppers: Absolutely. Once you do something before, you definitely have a certain comfort level when you find yourself in a familiar position. We knew we had to have gap integrity, wrap up, play stout in the run and smother in coverage and try to make Cam (Newton) see things he didn’t want to see, or things he thought he saw. That’s our game plan week in and week out. Try to confuse the quarterback, play stout in the run and smother and cover in the pass game.
CB.com: Does the pressure pick up when you’re facing a team that you know has a great defense?
Peppers: You definitely want to be the best defense that day. Everything’s a competition. Their defense is ranked above us right now so we’re hoping by the end of this game we can either close the gap or take over.
CB.com: When you look at the season as a whole with you at strong safety and Damarious Randall playing great at free safety, what kind of strength have you guys been for this defense?
Peppers: I just think we’re patrolling the area being and intimidators. D-Randall has been a sure tackler for us in the open field. There are a lot of plays people might see and don’t blink twice at. Me being back there knowing, ‘OK, if you make that tackle, that’s a tackle he’s supposed to make.’ But when you miss that tackle, it’s a big play or a touchdown. He’s done a great job at making those tackles and minimizing scoring opportunities for the opponents.
CB.com: How much better are you seeing things closer to the ball?
Peppers: It’s just me more knowing the defense. I’m a year in the defense and with my comfort level, I know what everyone else has to do. That plays into it as the most important role in me seeing everything because now I can see things and look at some extra things because I’m not worried about what I’m doing.
CB.com: I know you’re on defense, but do you ever catch yourself watching the offense and being impressed by what they’ve accomplished lately?
Peppers: Absolutely, absolutely. I’m a student of the game, both sides. It’s been tremendous what they’ve been able to do. The steps and growth Baker (Mayfield) has made -- I saw it in practice and it transcends into the game. We just want to go out there and play good defense for them and give them the ball back so they can keep scoring.
CB.com: What makes it tough to stop Baker in practice?
Peppers: At practice, we have his number a couple of times. He’s just the ultimate competitor, a gunslinger. He sees the field better than most people give him credit for and his arm is stronger than most people give him credit for. Even if you do get your hands on the ball, it’s hard to catch because you’re not used to catching a ball with that velocity. He’s just a smart guy. He scrambles and he steps up in the pocket with his eyes down field so you have to plaster the receivers. He turns nothing plays into big plays. In this league, that’s what you need.
CB.com: Has Rashard Higgins given you much of a tutorial on the difficulties of dealing with elevation in Denver?
Peppers: I’m guessing it’s not going to be any much different than Utah. I played out there so I pretty much know and have a feel for what I have to do. I have to have my body ready to go.
CB.com: What does Denver do best on offense?
Peppers: They run the ball. They run it very proficiently and they get in big personnels and run it downhill and right at you. It’s just about bringing that attitude and knowing this is going to be a hard-nosed, hard-hitting football game. If you come with that mindset and come ready to tackle and come ready to stop the run, you definitely have a chance.
CB.com: You have any extra juice for a primetime game?
Peppers: Every week has been a playoff week. You can’t let any of the extra elements add anything extra to the game. It is what it is, we’ve been doing it for the past few weeks. We let one slip away from us and we’re trying to get back on track. Let’s stack another win.