KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Seattle Seahawks running back Robert Turbin never had a chance to score Friday night on third-and-goal at the Chiefs’ 2-yard line in the third quarter.
Chiefs defensive end Mike Catapano made sure of that after busting through the offensive line untouched to drop Turbin in the backfield for a 7-yard loss, forcing a field goal.
“You see me in the backfield because of preparation, that’s hard work and determination,” Catapano said after the game. “That’s the kind of player I am. I’m just going to keep coming. I’m like the Terminator; you’re going to have to kill me to stop me.”
And very much like a T-800, Catapano was relentless Friday night.
The third-year pro out of Princeton penetrated the pocket, impervious to blockers, and helped stuff running plays en route to three total tackles (one solo) and a team-high 39 snaps on defense in the Chiefs 14-13 win.
His overall performance impressed coach Andy Reid.
“I thought he got better as the game went on,” Reid said during a Saturday afternoon media conference call. “I mean, his energy was good. He hasn’t played in a game in a couple years, so his energy was there the whole time. I thought when he was with the ones, he probably wasn’t as productive as when he was with the twos.
“He kept pushing and you could see him kind of refine a couple things. I thought initially he was kind of taking guys down the middle on his pass rush and they were pushing the center towards him a couple times, so he was doubled, and then he worked through it. He started working his technique and his fundamentals better so I thought that was positive.”
Defensive end Mike Devito, one of Catapano’s closest friends on the team, agreed.
“I see it every day in practice,” DeVito said. “He’s beating everybody in one-on-ones, he’s got an incredible pass rush and his run game. So, Mike is a complete guy. It’s a credit to (assistant defensive line coach) Britt (Reid) and (defensive line) Coach (Tommy) Brasher, the work they put in. He’s done a great job.”
The second preseason contest proved an emotional event for Catapano, who started the 2014 season on the non-football injury list with a gastrointestinal-based virus before the Chiefs placed him on injured reserve with a concussion.
Catapano dedicated himself during the offseason to whip himself into shape, and the training resulted in him packing on 20 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame to a solid 290 pounds.
“This offseason, I just took myself to a whole another level and I feel it out there,” he said. “I feel it mentally, I feel it strength-wise, speed-wise.”
Catapano, however, couldn’t unleash in the first preseason opener after sitting out with a groin injury, so Friday night marked his first football action since the 2013 season.
“When I first ran out there out of the tunnel, I literally ran to the other end zone and just took a knee and I almost cried,” Catapano said. “I was so happy to be out there again, it was really a rush of adrenaline throughout the whole game. Played as hard as I could, glad we got the team win. I thought the whole squad really put together a nice win against a really, really good Seattle team.”
The native of Bayville, N.Y., harnessed the emotions to turn in a productive game, but his return to the field also excited DeVito, who said he loves Catapano “like a brother.”
“We’ve been excited about Mike since he got here,” DeVito said. “He’s had some bumps with injuries and things like that, but you just see his stature, his physical ability, he has agility, his speed. He just has the whole package. I just knew it the second he was able to get out there and be healthy and let it loose, he was going to play like that. It’s great to see him out there.”
Catapano had a wide grin on his face when recalling how he appeared unstoppable on the field, flying to the point of attack and making plays.
And he chalked it up to months of hard work, which only served notice to opponents during the regular season what will occur whenever he is on the field.
“That’s what I was preparing for,” Catapano said with a confident smile. “I believe I can really make a difference for this this team in the AFC West. I’m just trying to keep getting better, obviously learn from the guys we got here. We got some great D-linemen here, so I’m just trying to keep improving my game. This is a preseason game. Obviously, Seattle is a good team. We just got to keep moving forward, keep getting better and getting ready for the regular season.”