- Jabrill Peppers didn't let the ball out of his sight late Saturday as he stood by his locker, not after nearly losing it for good in the frantic seconds following the first interception of his NFL career.
If not for Briean Boddy-Calhoun deftly snagging the ball after Peppers' first-quarter interception, Cleveland's first-round safety might not have the first of what he hopes are many milestone balls to add to his collection.
"It looks good, looks good," Peppers said, laughing, as he looked at the ball in his hands. "I definitely appreciate him for that."
Peppers was in the right place at the right time and maximized the opportunity when he snagged an overthrown Jameis Winston pass at the goal line and returned it 23 yards. The takeaway was significant, as it not only prevented the Buccaneers from gaining an early lead, but also verified why Cleveland's coaches entrusted Peppers to play at a free safety spot that was assumed by many analysts to be foreign territory for the hard-hitting defensive back.
"It's just playing within the scheme, trusting your instincts, trusting what you see and making your opportunities count," Peppers said. "They took a shot on me without me having much experience back there. The least I can do is make them look good."
The interception was the Browns' second inside the red zone in as many games and served as the sixth of seven takeaways they've forced in three preseason games. Peppers is one of a number of new, young faces on a defense that has played with an attitude en route to allowing just one touchdown and a handful of field goals during the preseason.
"We can still get better," veteran cornerback Joe Haden said. "There are still a couple of things we can tighten up on, but everyone's running to the ball and trying to put hits out there. We're just playing with a lot of passion and a lot of effort."
- The Browns defense went a dazzling three-for-three in its "sudden change" opportunities Saturday.
The first came on the game's first series with Peppers' interception, as Cleveland's defense was forced to return the field after a Jamie Collins Sr. penalty on Tampa Bay's field-goal attempt gave the Buccaneers a first down. Two plays later, the ball was back with the Browns' offense, and Tampa Bay still hadn't scored.
Cleveland's defense combined to allow just one first down on the two drives following turnovers by the offense in the second quarter, and Tampa Bay punted it back each time.
"(Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams) always talks about sudden change," Haden said. "Whenever we come on the field, whatever position we're in, just get back off it. It's just a mentality we have as a defense not to let anybody score touchdowns on us. It feels good to make those stops."
The Browns play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Preseason Week 3.
- Corey Coleman kept getting better as training camp progressed, and his continued improvement was on display Saturday against the Buccaneers.
On an otherwise tough night for Browns receivers, Coleman led the way with a handful of tough grabs. His highlight moment came early in the first quarter, when he stretched out for a well-placed DeShone Kizer pass and hauled in the 32-yard pass.
The former first-round pick was hampered by injuries both in training camp and the regular season throughout his rookie year. Now, he's fully healthy and confident there's more performances like Saturday's on the horizon.
"I'm feeling good," Coleman said. "I'm really blessed to be out there and I've got to keep getting better, remain focused and keep climbing that ladder."
- Cody Parkey put his best foot forward in Cleveland's ongoing kicking competition Saturday, making both of his attempted field goals. Parkey capped the Browns' first-quarter scoring drive with a 38-yarder and sliced into Tampa Bay's deficit with a 47-yarder in the second half.
Rookie Zane Gonzalez, who handled the opening kickoff and has blasted the ball deep into the end zone whenever he does, missed an attempt from 55 yards. He made Cleveland's extra point following the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and nailed his field goal attempt in Monday's win over the Giants.
- Browns fullback Danny Vitale suffered an ankle injury during the first quarter and did not return. The second-year player is Cleveland's only true fullback on the 90-man roster.
Defensive ends Nate Orchard (groin) and Cam Johnson (knee), rookie defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (shoulder) and safety Ibraheim Campbell (concussion) were among the players who did not play because of their respective injuries.