Saints linebacker borrows celebration dance after sacking Carolina QB
In the days leading up to their Sunday night showdown with the Carolina Panthers last week, the New Orleans Saints’ defense watched quarterback Cam Newton make big play after big play during an eight-game winning streak.
By the end of the week, the Saints had seen and heard enough about how Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, celebrates touchdowns.
Fancying himself to be Superman, Newton pretends to shed his suit like his superhero and waits for the cheers of his home crowd, or conversely, jeers from hostile fans on the road before jogging back to the sideline.
So when Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette came off the edge and sacked Newton to end the Panthers’ first possession and force them into a field-goal attempt after a long drive, he remembered the words of linebackers coach/assistant head coach Joe Vitt.
Galette got up and mimicked Newton by acting like he was ripping his suit off. He then slammed the imaginary suit to the ground and stomped on it several times to ignite the fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I know he does that, and I remember Joe Vitt saying, ‘We’re not letting this guy do the Superman in our house,’” Galette said, recalling Vitt’s mantra throughout the week. “I kind of had to show him.”
Galette could have done it two more times during a much-needed 31-13 victory that helped the Saints take a one-game lead over the Panthers in the NFC South race.
After his second and third sacks of the night, which was a career-high for the four-year veteran, Galette showed the proper respect and restraint — which may have been a good idea since the Saints will face Newton and the Panthers again on Dec. 22 in Charlotte, N.C.
“You don’t want to be repetitive,” a smiling Galette said Wednesday when asked why he didn’t repeat the Superman move on his other sacks.
He enjoyed doing it, of course, but Galette liked something else more.
“I really enjoyed it. … I really enjoyed the win, if anything,” said Galette, who noted he came up with the idea to mimic Newton on Sunday morning. “That really felt good having come in there and knowing that’s a really good team, and we snapped the streak they had. It just felt good.”
What also feels good to Galette, who made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2010, is the 3-4 alignment installed by new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan that is allowing him to make impact plays.
In three seasons as a reserve defensive end, Galette had 91/2 sacks and 51 total tackles. This season, he was moved to outside linebacker and has a career-high nine sacks and 42 tackles with three game left.
While the Saints still use a four-man front a lot, Galette has been a force whether as a standup pass-rusher or putting his hand in the ground as a defensive end.
With he and third-year defensive end Cameron Jordan combining for 201/2 sacks, with Jordan having 111/2, the Saints are tied for second in the NFL with 43 sacks — 13 more than they had all last season.
“I feel like the strengths right now of our team, it’s getting to the quarterback with a four-man rush and our back end playing as well,” Galette said. “The defensive backs are playing well and giving us time to get there.”
Newton went down five times Sunday night — each on third down to help the Saints get off the field and give the ball back to their potent offense.
As far as his play is concerned, Galette said it’s all about opportunity and confidence.
He said Ryan helped with the latter when he told him in a phone conversation that he thought he could be special in his new position after just watching film of him.
“I’m like, ‘Man, this guy’s just building my confidence up,’ because I know I believed it,” he said. “But then, for him to actually act on it and put me out there and say, ‘You’re gonna be a starter, we want you to be a starter here,’ it feels really good.”
In fact, it’s super.