Carolina Panthers offensive linemen Ryan Kalil and Matt Kalil stood side by side for the national anthem before Sunday’s game against Minnesota.
The fact that both were still standing at the end of the Panthers’ 31-24 victory is a good omen for the team’s playoff push.
Ryan Kalil, a five-time Pro Bowl center, made it through a game for the first time since Week 1 after returning from a serious neck injury.
Matt Kalil, his younger brother and the Panthers’ $55.5 million left tackle, for the most part neutralized defensive end Everson Griffen, his former teammate who came in to the game No. 4 on the NFL sacks list this season with 12.
“It was fun. It was weird, man,” Matt Kalil said. “It’s a weird experience playing a game against guys you practiced against for five years.”
Griffen had three sacks against the Panthers last season, working mostly vs. Michael Oher, who is believed to have played the game with a concussion. But he only had one against Matt Kalil – on a play in which Griffen was called for a facemask on Cam Newton (the sack still counted).
The Vikings finished with two sacks on Newton (for a loss of 8 yards) – six fewer than in their victory last year in Charlotte.
“Everson’s one of the best D-ends in the NFL. So I had my hands full going against him. He’s a great competitor,” Matt Kalil said. “We competed our butts off out there. It’s good to get the win.”
The younger Kalil picked up a facemask penalty vs. Griffen but otherwise fared well, according to his head coach.
“I’m very, very happy for Matt,” Rivera said. “A lot has been said this week, written, talked about. And as I said last week and the week before, I’ll say it again, the guy is getting better and better at what we do.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Kalil had his hands full with nose tackle Linval Joseph, who had a team-high 10 tackles and a sack.
“I did OK. A little rusty. I’ve got to get my footing back. It’s a heck of a first game to come back against that guy,” Ryan Kalil said. “He’s one of the better nose tackles in the league and got a lot of respect for him. Played him a few years now and he continues to get better. He’ll definitely be one of the greats.”
The elder Kalil held up OK physically, saying nothing hurts as much after a victory.
And Matt Kalil said he wouldn’t be surprised to see his former teammates again in January.
“I mean, they’re 10-3. So it looks like they’ve got the division on lock,” he said. “They’re a great team and definitely someone we can see in the playoffs.”