The former Miami Hurricane had two big sacks of Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, the last one all but cementing the 17-14 victory with 37 seconds left in the game. What makes Vernon’s performance even more impressive is that he played the entire second half with an injured ankle.
“It takes a lot to keep me out of the game and when it came to crunch time we knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said Vernon, who finished with four solo tackles, the two sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. “Everybody just had to step up and I was fortunate enough to make the play. I had seen when
Vernon had one sack, two single-handed stops of powerful Rams running back Steven Jackson and two quarterback hits in the first half before he went down on covering the kickoff following Miami’s first touchdown of the game. He remembers rolling up on his ankle as soon as he hit one of the blockers and he had to be helped off the field.
There was never a moment when the rookie thought he was going to have to go back into the locker room and take off his uniform because he was intent on going back into the game. Vernon drew inspiration from veteran linebacker
“The theme for this week was, ‘put it out there and rest next week,’ and we did that,” Burnett said. “It wasn’t pretty. We gave up yards but you know what, sometimes you’ve got to take those victories because those are character builders.”
There was a clear advantage that Vernon saw on those pass rushing situations as he shot through the open gaps immediately and came through untouched on both sacks. That was a direct result of film study the week leading up to the game and a reason why not only Vernon, but defensive end
“From the first day he stepped on the field he’s been making plays and doing great things,” said Wake, who had a sack of his own and later had one taken away by instant replay review. “I told him this morning, ‘Today’s your day. Go out there and seize your opportunity,” and as you can see he did. … I’ve seen things that he’s done, running around chasing Tannehill and going against
Vernon doing what he did despite that ankle injury also impressed Wake.
“That shows the kind of competitor he is and this is a man’s game and it sounds harsh but nobody cares about your ankle,” Wake said. “They want you to get out there and make a play. They don’t care if you’re hot, you’re bloody and you’re bleeding. It’s about what you are going to do when the game’s on the line and you need a play and he shook off that pain and the distraction and he made the play. I’m glad that he’s on my team.”
Now Vernon gets to enjoy the spoils of being the defensive hero with his parents and all of his close friends that were on hand. He’s talked about the massive tailgate party his parents host and the amount of food they bring back home with them, which he is looking forward to.
“It feels good just to make plays and play well in front of your family because you want to represent your last name,” Vernon said. “It just feels good to have all of your friends and family down here watching you and supporting you and to give it back just makes it better. I hope my dad saved a lot of that food.”