Kony Ealy picks off Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 50 (photo/NFL.com, Todd Rosenburg)

Kony Ealy picks off Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 50 (photo/NFL.com, Todd Rosenburg)

Had the Panthers found a way to pull out a victory in Super Bowl 50, former Mizzou Tiger and Missouri native Kony Ealy’s play would have made a strong argument for MVP in a game dominated by defense.

Ealy made two key plays that at least provided Cam Newton and the Carolina offense an opportunity to turn the game around.

The New Madrid County Central High alum finished the game with four tackles, three solo stops, two tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery.

After Carolina scored to cut the Denver lead to 10-7 in the second quarter, Ealy sacked Peyton Manning on first down to the Broncos’ 13.  A three and out forced a Denver punt from the eight, helping set up Carolina with the ball at midfield and momentum on their side.  Carolina went three and out and punted away the great field position.

Later in the quarter, with Carolina down 13-7, Manning was driving Denver again which could have been the knockout punch to put this game out of reach in the second quarter.  On a third and 8, Manning threw to his left, but Ealy dropped off the line from his defensive end position and fell into coverage.  Manning threw it right to Ealy who picked it off at his own 20 and returned it out to the 39, ending Denver’s chance for more points.

Ealy talks about the interception.

Ealy came up big one more time in the fourth quarter and again it was on third down.  Ealy rushed after Manning on a 3rd and 14 from Carolina’s 41 and not only dropped Manning, but stripped him of the ball and recovered at the 48 giving the Panthers life.  Carolina eventually drove down for a field goal making it a 16-10 game and pulling the Panthers to within a touchdown of winning.

“It sucks man,” said Ealy after the game.  “We didn’t come here to lose.  I’m ready to get back to next year.”