FOXBOROUGH — Jalen Carter was the only one who could have predicted how his NFL debut could go. Smiling in the locker room after notching his first career sack, Carter knew the moment wasn’t too big for him.
The Philadelphia Eagles rookie was born for this. There were no signs of nerves, even though Sunday was his first professional football game.
“You know, football is what I’ve been doing my whole life,” Carter said. “Some people do get nervous, but not me. I’m ready to make a play. I’m here.”
Carter had the biggest play for the Eagles defense when a collapse was incoming. The Patriots were facing a second-and-10 on the Eagles’ 19-yard line with 58 seconds left, down five and needing a touchdown for the win. Carter, who dominated the Patriots interior offensive line all day, was ready to strike.
He busted through the interior and got to Patriots quarterback Mac Jones for his first career sack, forcing the Patriots into a third-and-13 that took them out of the red zone. Two plays later, the Eagles won the game.
“We had a call that we (previously) had run,” Carter said when describing his first sack. “Then the quarterback got pressure from the other guys, he stepped up in the pocket and happened to come right there in my hand.
“I didn’t want to say it was my time, but it was time for somebody to make a play. At that moment, everybody is rushing trying to make that play for the win. Everybody is trying to execute the plan.”
Carter was close all day to getting Jones, finishing with eight pressures, a quarterback hit, and tackle for loss in his 32 pass rushing snaps (25% pressure rate per dropback). The eight pressures were tied for the most by any player in Week 1 and the most for any rookie in the league.
“Man, I’m on the sidelines talking like ‘Man I’m getting close, I’m getting close. I’m gonna get him this time,'” Carter said with a smile. “I finally got him. I was so happy about that.”
On a day the Eagles pass rush didn’t exactly live up to his reputation, finishing with just two sacks (albeit having seven quarterback hits), Carter ended up being the one to make the game-changing play when the defense needed him the most.
Even though Carter was living in the moment, there still is that swagger that all the great defensive tackles have when they finally get to the quarterback. For him, getting to Jones meant a little more.
“My freshman year, he beat us,” Carter said. “I wanted to say something to him, but he probably don’t even know me.”
Good bet Jones knows Carter now. As does the rest of the NFL.