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Game Day

Jabrill Peppers delivers the kind of game-changing performance he and his teammates believed was 'a long time coming'

Jabrill Peppers propped himself off Case Keenum and ran up the field, flexing his biceps. He'd been waiting for this moment — for the Browns to be playoff contenders after finishing 0-16 during Peppers' first season, for his play-making ability to bleed over from practices to games.

On his last play of the game, he waited for a split second before he fired through the gap left by the Broncos' pass protection and dropped Keenum on fourth-and-10 with 39 seconds remaining. 

"I just baited the quarterback, acted like I wasn't coming," Peppers said. "I knew what was coming. I knew (their protection), and I came scott-free."

Against Denver, Peppers played like one of the Browns' biggest asset, accumulating his most impressive professional box score to date, by showcasing the versatility and athletic gifts that made him a first-round pick in last year's draft.

On top of Peppers' six tackles, the game-ending sack was the first of his career. His second-quarter interception, which he earned by sprinting from the middle of the end zone to prevent a touchdown, doubled as his first ever against a starting quarterback (his other career interception came against Landry Jones while Ben Roethlisberger rested on the sideline). 

Peppers hasn't made as many big plays as he'd prefer up to this point in his career, but his impact on Saturday's game was impossible to ignore. 

"This was Jabrill Peppers' coming out party, man," safety Damarious Randall said. "I've been seeing it in practice. I've been seeing flashes of it. But he put it all together (tonight) and I'm just happy for him."

Everyone sees Peppers produce big plays in practice. He was hard to miss this week. T.J. Carrie said Peppers intercepted three passes in one day, which Peppers confirmed. It happened on Wednesday, the day before the Browns flew out to Denver.

That's where Peppers' self-confidence comes from. Disrupting his team's offense during the week gives him the confidence he'll do the same to the opponent's on game day. When he backs up the trash he talks to Baker Mayfield, he believes he can back it up against opposing quarterbacks. Confidence can only take you so far, but now Peppers has proof that he can make game-changing plays in big games.

That leads Randall to believe Peppers has more to show us. 

"His confidence level is through the roof," Randall said. "(His talent) is just starting to show. I just can't be more proud of him."

Peppers thought he might make his backfield mate proud Saturday. Peppers considered his turnover-happy Wednesday a good omen, saying he knew he would intercept Keenum in Denver. There was no way he he'd walk out of Mile High Stadium without a turnover.

Turns out he was right. Peppers produced two of the most important defensive plays in a must-win road game. He provided his teammates and coaches with a prolonged glimpse at why the Browns drafted him in the first round. He saw his patience pay off. He changed the perception of his talent. Peppers was, as linebacker Joe Schobert put it, his play-making, smack-talking, fun-having self, the player everyone knows Peppers can be.

The next step is to ensure this becomes the norm. 

"It's been a long time coming," Peppers said of his career-best performance. "I just gotta build on this, get better, learn from the mental errors and put it all together next week again."