For a young player who’s developing into one of the Carolina Panthers’ best pass rushers, defensive end Kony Ealy believes his performance against New Orleans will be a hiccup rather than a setback in his progression.
Ealy, the second-round pick from Missouri in 2014, entered Sunday with a sack in each of the previous five games. But he played 12 snaps and made one tackle against the Saints after injuring his knee in the first half and picking up three penalties in the second half.
Ealy said an offensive lineman came down awkwardly on his knee during a Saints field goal try. Ealy said the time on the sideline got him off his rhythm.
But what drew the coaches’ ire were the consecutive plays in the third quarter when Ealy jumped offsides, giving the Saints a first down on a drive that ended with Brandin Cooks’ 54-yard touchdown reception.
While he said Drew Brees changed up his cadence, Ealy owned the penalties, calling them “two bonehead decisions” that put the Panthers in a bad spot.
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott indicated the offsides flags affected Ealy’s playing time. Ealy also was whistled for illegal use of hands in the fourth quarter.
“As a professional I’ve got to move on from it,” Ealy said. “And that’s what I’m doing.”