The Eagles called defensive tackle Fletcher Cox a game-time decision.
But after watching him dominate the Panthers offensive line Thursday night, they admitted the decision was made long before pregame warmups.
“He was playing,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, via Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “There was no way I could sit him tonight. This was too important of a game.”
And did he ever play, after missing the last two games with a calf injury.
The stat sheet said he finished with two tackles, half a sack and two quarterback hits, but it looked even more impressive. Watching him forklift Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner back into Cam Newton, forcing a hurried pass which was intercepted by Rasul Douglas and led to a quick score, you remembered why the Eagles paid him all that money.
“I just bulled the guard into the quarterback’s lap and went after the throwing arm,” Cox said. “I actually thought it was a strip but I turned around and saw Rasul get the ball. Every play is a big play, especially plays like that.”
But there were many more plays, as the Eagles front four dominated the Panthers. Another place the stat sheet lies is in rushing yards. The Panthers finished with 25 carries for 80 yards. But take away 11 carries for 71 yards by quarterback Cam Newton and an 8-yard end-around by wide receiver Curtis Samuel, and the Eagles limited the Panthers running backs to a single (as in 1) yard on 13 carries, stuffing Jonathan Stewart for minus-4 yards on eight carries.
That showed just how aggressive the Eagles’ line was, with Cox spearheading the charge.
“S—, it felt good,” fellow defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. “It felt like he’s back to his normal self. Dominating, doing what he do.”
And what he did Thursday was practically assault.