Questionable to play in the days leading up to Thursday night’s game at Carolina, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was unquestionably dominating in the 28-23 win over the Panthers.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Cox said when asked if he felt he played a controlling game. “I felt I played a really good game.”
No doubt about it, he did.
Cox and the defense limited Carolina’s running backs to nine total rushing yards on 13 attempts, and while quarterback Cam Newton had 71 yards and a touchdown run on 16 carries, the Eagles made him pay for keeping the football.
“It’s hard to focus on him because they do so many things with the football,” Cox said. “But I think we did a pretty good job on a short week preparing for a very creative running game. We were physical up front.”
Cox wasted no time making an impact, assisting on a tackle of running back James Stewart (along with linebacker Jordan Hicks) after a 1-yard gain on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage. In the second quarter, Cox pushed right guard Trai Turner into quarterback Cam Newton’s lap and forced an errant pass that cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepted and returned to the Carolina 12-yard line, setting up an Eagles touchdown that tied the game, 10-10.
Then, late in the first half on a first-and-10 play in Eagles territory, Cox had inside pressure to get to Newton, just as defensive end Brandon Graham reached Newton with outside pressure to record a sack that forced Carolina out of field goal range. The 7-yard loss pushed the Panthers from the Eagles’ 38-yard line to the 45, helping to preserve a tie game at the half.
So even though Cox’s stat line of two assists, two quarterback hurries, one pass defensed (Cox hit Newton’s arm on a pass attempt), and half of a quarterback sack didn’t jump off the page, his impact was significant.
Cox missed the two previous games, wins over the Chargers and Cardinals, with a calf injury suffered in the victory over New York at Lincoln Financial Field. Optimism built during the short week that Cox would play against Carolina, and he delivered.
“I lived in the training room the last two weeks and I have to give credit to our trainers for getting me back on the field,” Cox said. “I really wanted to play. This was a big game. I was a little rusty with my technique early, but I felt I got better as the game went along.
“I’m not all the way back yet, so I still have some work to do. But it felt great being out there helping our team win.”