Sport Fletcher Cox's return bolsters already stout Eagles front

08:56  13 october  2017
08:56  13 october  2017 Source:   Sporting News

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The Eagles defense was other-worldly against the Panthers, holding Carolina running backs to just 1 yard on 13 carries in a 28-23 victory.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Eagles entered Thursday's game at Bank of America Stadium with the NFL's second-best rush defense.

Fletcher Cox © (Getty Images) Fletcher Cox

They were other-worldly against the Panthers, holding Carolina running backs to just 1 yard on 13 carries in a 28-23 victory.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was a big reason why. The six-year veteran returned from a calf injury and had an immediate impact Thursday, stuffing Jonathan Stewart for a 1-yard gain on Carolina's first play from scrimmage.

"I pushed the gas pedal from the first play," Cox said following the win. "That way I knew where I was physically."

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Cox also created the first of three Cam Newton interceptions, hitting the Panthers quarterback as he threw the ball from his own 14-yard line. The hit resulted in a fluttering pass that was picked by Eagles rookie Rasul Douglas.

Cox was credited with two tackles, half a sack, two quarterback hits and a pass breakup. But the 6-4, 310-pound Mississippi State alum was even more disruptive than the numbers showed, creating havoc against the Panthers offensive line to help create plays for others. The Eagles sacked Newton twice and hit him another nine times to force the three interceptions.

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"When they play like they have been playing, and they have been playing like this all year, it is easier for us," Douglas said of the Eagles defensive line. "We congratulate them. I mean, we get the picks, but it's all them."

Cox missed the last two games with a strained calf suffered in a Week 3 win over the Giants. The Eagles were able to win without him, beating the Chargers and Cardinals, but they allowed 2 1/2 yards more per play than they did with him on the field.

Cox said he consulted other players who had a similar injury and they told him, "it was nothing to play with." He played things smart and tested his calf on Tuesday as a full participant in practice. It was then he thought he would be able to play Thursday.

"It felt great. I did a workout right before the game and it felt great," Cox said. "It didn't get tight on me and I felt like I could come out and help the boys go to battle.

"At first, I could tell I hadn't played in two games because my technique was a little rusty, my get-off was a little rusty," Cox added. "But as the game went on, I got better and felt like I was getting it."

While Newton ran for 71 yards on 11 carries, Stewart had minus-4 yards on eight carries. Panthers running back Fozzy Whittaker had one carry for a 3-yard loss and rookie Christian McCaffrey tallied just 8 rushing yards on four attempts.

"It's what we do," Cox said of stuffing the run. "We want to get teams in third-and-long, second-and-long situations so they throw the ball around and give the guys up front a chance to rush the passer."

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