SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Kony Ealy put up numbers that were worthy of Super Bowl MVP consideration, but the Panthers’ defensive end didn’t care about any number except the final score. Unfortunately for the second-year defensive end, he came up on the losing end of a 24-10 score Sunday night against the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Ealy finished with a game-high three sacks, one of which resulted in a forced fumble of Peyton Manning, and he also had an interception on the 39-year-old quarterback.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s not the first time that has happened to any player,” Ealy said. “It’s really unfortunate. At the end of the day, it was what we did, it wasn’t what they did.”
Ealy was in the right place at the right time for a second-quarter interception, Manning’s only pick in the playoffs. He played in a zone defense and dropped back into the right area in front of wide receiver Emanuel Sanders to make the play.
“I got to my spot, and I turned around and the ball was right there,” Ealy said. “It was just like slow motion.”
Ealy’s sack and forced fumble of Manning near midfield in the fourth quarter led to a Panthers field goal and cut the Denver lead to one score at 16-10.
“Peyton had to see somewhere where he couldn’t throw the ball down the field right away,” Ealy said about the play. “It’s a team effort. It’s a defensive effort.”
The Panthers came into the game as favorites after winning 17 of 18 games, including playoff wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals. They couldn’t finish the job against a Broncos team whose own relentless defensive effort was the difference.
“We had a good year,” Ealy said. “At the end of the day, this year’s group, I love those guys. We still have each other’s back, no matter the outcome, through the ups and downs, period. You just have to come back and fight next year. It sucks, but at the end of the day, I can’t dwell on it. The better team won. They showed up, they played, they didn’t make mistakes, and we did make mistakes. Obviously, it results in a loss.”