One February before Trey Flowers recorded 2.5 sacks against Matt Ryan, his new teammate recorded three sacks against Peyton Manning.
Twenty-three snaps were all it took for Kony Ealy to do so.
The defensive end became just the third player to notch a trio in a single Super Bowl since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, and before it was all over, he also notched a forced fumble and an interception.
The full stat line made Ealy the only player to record multiple sacks and a pick in Super Bowl history. And had the game of his life not ended in a 24-10 Carolina Panthers loss to the Denver Broncos, there’s little doubt the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder out of Missouri would have been named the MVP of it.
But that game stands distant to Ealy now – even though most who watched his performance still remember it.
“I'm not too much concerned about the game I had two years ago or how last week went,” Ealy told reporters on his introductory conference call Thursday. “It's all about moving forward and getting better, and that's what I'm looking forward to doing.”
Traded to the New England Patriots last week along with a third-round pick in exchange for a second-rounder only eight spots higher, it is a fresh start for Ealy. And it is one that the 25-year-old – who has one year left on his rookie deal – is welcoming.
“I would just like to thank New England and the whole front office for choosing me to come – allowing me to come and learn from the greats, learning how to take my game and bring it to the next level,” Ealy said. “Just coming in and trying to help contribute to another winning season.”
Ealy has contributed to 47 of a possible 48 regular-season games since checking in at No. 60 overall in 2014. He’s accrued 76 tackles, 14 sacks, another interception and another six forced fumbles over that span. But Ealy’s Super Bowl 50 surge did not carry over the way some expected it to during his final campaign in Charlotte, when he started six contests.
Perhaps his next start will come across from a fellow Super Bowl standout, one who also happens to be a familiar face from Ealy’s days in the SEC.
“I know Trey Flowers,” Ealy said of the Arkansas product. “He's a really hard worker. There's always good things to say about that guy. I know that for sure.”
Entering the league as a fourth-round pick one year after Ealy, Flowers spent the majority of his rookie season with the Patriots on injured reserve before going on to lead the defense with seven sacks through 16 games and eight starts in 2016.
Now with veterans Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard not returning to the fold for 2017, and Rob Ninkovich embarking on his 12th season, the 23-year-old stands prominently on the Patriots’ bookend depth chart.
Ready to join him there is Ealy.
“I know Trey is a great competitor, he's a hard worker,” Ealy said. “I've heard nothing but great things about him and just being around a guy like that up here, I think it's really going to help develop my game just because the guy knows how to do things the right way. It will help motivate and develop my game with me trying to match his intensity or grow past it. It's more so about feeding off of each other. I think it will be a great tandem to do so.”