Julius Peppers continued his strong start to his 16th NFL season Sunday, contributing two big plays to the Carolina Panthers’ 27-24 win over Detroit.
Peppers had a sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to increase his team-leading total to 5.5 sacks after five games. And on a fourth-and-1 play, Peppers knifed through the Detroit line and tackled Lions running back Zach Zenner for a 4-yard loss.
“We’re really pleased with it because of where it was at,” Peppers said of Carolina’s victory. “This is a very tough place to win. … This is a quality team. ... I’ve been hearing Detroit was the class of the NFC. It’s a huge step for us.”
Peppers’ sack was the 149th of his NFL career. He is in fifth place on the all-time NFL list and could pass Chris Doleman (150.5) as soon as Thursday night, when the 4-1 Panthers host 4-1 Philadelphia.
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Said Peppers of his sack Sunday: “That play was a result of everybody rushing together. We all kind of stayed in our lanes on that play and the coverage made him (Stafford) pull the ball down. … I was able to get in there and steal one.”
Of the fourth-and-1 play, Peppers said: “All I did was just penetrate…. I was there at the point of attack.”
Peppers took pains to point out the contributions of Eric Washington, the Panthers’ defensive line coach, to his fast beginning this season.
“I came here playing a different position (outside linebacker for Green Bay) for the past three years,” Peppers said. “He’s been coaching me, pushing me hard, and everything is a result of that.”
Peppers’ all-time high for sacks in a season is 14.5, which he set with the Panthers in 2008. Last week, after a two-sack game against New England, he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. The Panthers are now 4-0 when Peppers has at least a half-sack in a game in 2017, and 0-1 when he doesn’t.