- Jabrill Peppers thought he'd made the play he'd been waiting months to make.
With the Browns trailing by a touchdown midway through Sunday's fourth quarter, the rookie safety went to break up a third-down pass intended for Cincinnati's Josh Malone. Peppers put his shoulder into Malone and jarred the ball loose.
Peppers' celebration with his teammates was short-lived. He turned around and saw a yellow penalty flag.
The call: Unnecessary roughness, targeting a defenseless receiver. Fifteen yards.
Browns coach Hue Jackson said an official told him Peppers' helmet made contact with Malone's head.
"It was third-and-five, and I just wanted to separate him from the ball and get them to fourth down," Peppers said. "Maybe they would have punted or gone for it — who knows — but it definitely could've given us a chance to win the game. It is what it is. You just have to keep improving and getting better and trust the process."
Cincinnati moved into field-goal range with the penalty and scored a game-sealing touchdown a few snaps later.
"It was a bang-bang play The refs have to do their job, and I have to do my job. It's a learning experience," Peppers said. "I should never leave any doubt. I left a little doubt, and they threw the flag. I'm not going to change the way I'm playing. I want to thank this organization for believing in me. It's been a rough start for me, for us and this season. I'm getting better and better every week, and I owe it to them and the guys in this room."
The Browns play the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12.
- Teammate after teammate inside the Browns locker room offered their support to Peppers and said they hoped he doesn't change a thing about his aggressive style of play.
"As a corner, that's what we want our free safety to do," cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun said. "He did the technique he was taught. Don't change anything."
"You don't know how hard it is to run full speed and not hit someone in the neck, but just in the chest. You have to do the same thing. Just as long as you're not launching."
Peppers vowed he wouldn't change how he hits while expressing an understanding for why the rules are in place to limit dangerous hits.
"Player safety has been a big issue, especially with everything that has happened with former players," Peppers said. "We've been playing this game for a long time — I've been playing since I was four, and I know the risks of playing this game. When you play defense, there's a certain mindset you have to have. You have to be careful with how much aggression you use, but you never want to play any different."
- At one point during Sunday's second quarter, the Browns were without their starting quarterback and punter because of their respective evaluations for potential concussions.
Fortunately for the Browns, neither DeShone Kizer nor Britton Colquitt were diagnosed with one. It just forced the team to briefly test its depth, as Cody Kessler was forced to play a series during Kizer's absence, and kicker Zane Gonzalez attempted a punt during Colquitt's.
"I just took a good hit," Kizer said. "I think it was on the second drive there. I felt a little off, and figured rather be safe than sorry. I didn't necessarily think I was going to go through the full concussion protocol, but obviously that's mandated by the league to protect us. Went through that, cleared and good, and got back out there."