CHARLOTTE – Whatever ideas Eric Johnson II and Adetomiwa Adebawore had about how they'd celebrate their first career sacks went out the window when they each slammed Bryce Young to the turf at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
"I've been thinking about it before but when the moment came, I was just elated, screaming," a hoarse Johnson said. "As you can tell, my voice is gone."
"I don't even know what I did," Adebawore said.
Johnson, the second-year defensive tackle, teamed up with defensive end Kwity Paye to drop Young for a 10-yard sack on the Colts' first defensive play after taking the lead in the second quarter. And Adebawore, the 2023 fourth-round defensive tackle, had a sack of Young just before the two-minute warning that all but sealed the Colts' 27-13 win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 9.
Both Johnson and Adebawore have been their playing time tick up since defensive tackle Grover Stewart was handed a six-game suspension by the NFL in October. Johnson played 43 percent of the Colts' defensive snaps in Week 7, then after missing Week 8 with an ankle injury he played 31 percent of the Colts' defensive snaps against the Panthers (both are his two highest snap percentages of his career).
Adebawore, meanwhile, played a career-high 21 snaps (30 percent) against the Panthers.
"It's our job to make sure there's no drop-off," Adebawore said. "If someone goes down, it can't just be an excuse — that's why we can't win or whatever. No, the next guy's ready to go. We all need to keep working but I feel like we did a good job making plays tonight."
It wasn't just Johnson and Adebawore having career firsts on Sunday, though.
With linebacker Zaire Franklin out with a knee injury, Segun Olubi stepped in as the Colts' starting MIKE linebacker. In his first career start, Olubi picked off Young in the fourth quarter for his first career interception.
"It was fun, man," Olubi said. "Honestly, it definitely humbles you — it gives you respect for the game, because there were some tough spots in the middle (of the game). "But it gives you fresh perspective that you can get it done."
Olubi, a speedy 2022 undrafted free agent the Colts brought aboard as a practice squad player last year, had the green communications dot on his helmet – meaning he was tasked with communicating the defensive calls to his teammates.
"Olubi, he stepped up a lot for Z," cornerback Kenny Moroe II said. "Obviously, we were in a position to communicate a lot and he did a great job of doing that."
The Colts' defense stifled the Panthers' offense, holding Carolina to just 3.9 yards per play. That kind of effort took everyone on the field to deliver, whether someone was a starter or not. With these career firsts, Johnson, Adebawore and Olubi all delivered – and maybe next time they do, they'll be able to celebrate the way they always envisioned.
"The guys were getting on me for not doing a sack dance but I was so out of it," Johnson laughed. "I might have to get the next one."
View highlights from the Colts' matchup versus the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 5.