Starting right defensive end Kony Ealy didn’t show up on the defensive stat sheet, but Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn’t seem to mind on day after Carolina’s 20-9 victory over Jacksonville.
Ealy, a second-year player, did the “dirty work” for a Panthers defensive that ended up sacking Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles five times, forcing an interception and holding the running game to 96 rushing yards.
“Somebody’s got to do it,” Ealy said of the dirty work.
Both Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott praised Ealy’s play on Sunday despite the former second-round pick not getting a sack, hit or tackle despite playing 41 of Carolina’s 67 defensive snaps.
“It’s not going to reflect in the final stats, but when you go back and look at the plays to happen for his teammates, that’s what you get excited about,” Rivera said.
“He got doubled a couple of times in the running game and took up two blockers. He held the point of attack very nicely and allowed the linebackers to run freely. He allowed the safeties to insert themselves. He was disciplined for the most part.
“He did have a loaf that we were disappointed in and we’ll get that corrected. But I thought he played the game that you’d hope from your defensive end.”
Ealy said the coaches credited him with three quarterback pressures, most of which came in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars were in desperation mode trying to get the ball down the field.
Where Ealy misses out on some sack opportunities is on important third downs. The Panthers regularly rotate the lighter, faster Mario Addison in at defensive end and slide Ealy into defensive tackle.
Addison had two sacks and forced an interception in the game.
“I did what I was supposed to do, when I was supposed to do it,” said Ealy, who finished last season with a sack in each of the last three regular-season games. “I put a lot of pressure on myself because I expect to have at least one sack a game. Sometimes that may not be the case and we have a long season so I can’t really dwell on one game.
“I did what I needed to do on the team, as far as what they needed me to do – stop the run and make sure I had my gaps.”