NFL: Dominant Peppers returns
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó The details surrounding any Jon Beason-Julius Peppers conversation remained murky Monday. Neither player spoke to reporters, just as they shied away from questions following Carolina’s game a day earlier.
The results, however, were clear: Shortly after Beason called him out, Peppers was dominant and the Panthers tasted victory for the first time in 287 days.
“Julius Peppers, who’s been under the microscope, so to be speak, I thought was much better,” coach John Fox said at his weekly news conference.
Peppers, the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end making an NFL-high $16.7 million this season, entered Sunday’s game against Washington with one sack and 10 tackles in three games, all losses.
After watching Minnesota’s Jared Allen record 41/2 sacks last Monday, Beason said on a local radio show that he planned to talk to Peppers about his lack of production. Beason has since clammed up and Peppers has continued his media boycott. Peppers, though, was quite loud on the field Sunday.
Peppers had two sacks, two tackles for a loss, three quarterback hurries, four solo tackles and was instrumental in causing a safety in Carolina’s 20-17 comeback win over the Redskins.
“He was lively out there,” linebacker Thomas Davis said. “He was running around, making plays. But what he was also doing for us was keeping guys up. Whenever something bad would happen on offense, special teams, or even defense, he stepped in as a leader.”
Peppers and leader haven’t been used in the same sentence often in Carolina. He seemingly went into a shell after owner Jerry Richardson publicly urged him to take charge of the defense before the 2007 season, finishing with a career-low 21/2 sacks.
He recovered to post a career-high 141/2 sacks in 2008, then spent the offseason doing everything he could to leave town.
Peppers eventually relented and signed his one-year tender. He reported to training camp on time and hasn’t missed a practice.
Breaking down Peppers’ play has become a cottage industry around these parts. Is he still being double-teamed as much? Did he give up on the play? Has he slowed down? Does he care?
Against the Redskins, Peppers was active.
“He very seldom talks, so when he says something, it carries a lot of weight,” defensive tackle Damione Lewis said. Peppers blew through right tackle Stephon Heyer, forcing Clinton Portis to the outside and allowing Davis to bring him down in the end zone for a safety, Carolina’s only first-half points.
Then as Carolina rallied from a 17-2 third-quarter deficit, Peppers sacked Jason Campbell on a key three-and-out. He later pressured Campbell on an incomplete pass that ended up being Washington’s final possession.
“He just came out and made some plays,” Lewis said. “I think he’s always playing hard the whole season, it’s just a matter of getting used to the system.”
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