EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Kony Ealy made one of the key defensive plays Sunday in the New York Jets' victory, and he was rewarded with a game ball in the locker room.
But this wasn't just a routine game-ball presentation from the coach.
Ealy was away from the team for a few days because of a death in his family. He lost his sister, Latoya Brown, earlier in the week, according to the Jets. No other details were provided. It made for an emotional scene as coach Todd Bowles handed him the ball.
Ealy missed two days of practice and didn't rejoin the team until Friday, but he evidently had a strong grasp of the game plan in the 23-20 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. In their scouting report of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jets' coaches noted that his release point was low and that he was vulnerable to batted passes. The defensive linemen were instructed to get their arms up, and they did, especially Ealy, who had four deflections.
The biggest came late in the third quarter, when Ealy batted a pass into the air, caught it and rumbled 7 yards to the Jacksonville 7-yard line. It set up a field goal, giving the Jets a 20-10 lead. If it weren't for a tackle by Bortles, the Jets would've had their first defensive touchdown in 61 games, the NFL's longest active streak.
"We need a turnover, period," Ealy said. "We always want to play up. That's our mentality on defense and I just had an opportunity to make a play on the ball."
And now he has a game ball, one that he will cherish.