The University of Missouri product, a second-round pick in 2014, recorded four tackles, three sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble. He became the first player in Super Bowl history to record multiple sacks and an interception and his three sacks tied the Super Bowl record.
“Kony played a heck of a football game,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters. “Just an incredible game in a lot of ways. It’s just too bad we couldn’t do enough do enough to make it worthwhile.”
Had the Panthers found a way to emerge with a victory, it’s possible Ealy would have been selected as the game’s most valuable player instead of Denver’s standout pass-rushing outside linebacker Von Miller.
“I don’t know what to say other than my teammates did a great job of putting me in position to make plays and Peyton (Manning) didn’t help himself by holding on to the ball a little too long a lot of times,” Ealy told reporters.
The Panthers defense held Manning and the Broncos to just 174 total yards of offense with two turnovers — both caused by Ealy.
Ealy intercepted Manning late in the second quarter, with the Broncos leading 13-7 and driving for another potential score. It was the first interception of Ealy’s career and he returned it 19 yards.
Early in the fourth quarter Ealy sacked Manning and forced and recovered a fumble, a turnover that led to a Carolina drive that produced a field goal.
Ealy recorded five sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during the regular season after getting four sacks during his rookie campaign in 2014.
Still, Ealy’s breakthrough performance was bittersweet. The Panthers, who lost just one during the regular season, suffered another loss in the final game of the season.
“You just have to come back and fight the next year,” Ealy told reporters. “I can’t sit and dwell on this loss. It sucks, but at the end of the day, you can’t dwell on it.”