Eagles

Eagles Film Review: Despite numbers, Fletcher Cox disruptive vs. Falcons

Eagles Film Review: Despite numbers, Fletcher Cox disruptive vs. Falcons

For the fifth straight game on Sunday, Fletcher Cox didn't record a sack. 

If you were to just look at his lack of sack numbers, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that the veteran who signed a contract worth $64 million guaranteed this offseason isn't living up to the deal. 

Despite not sacking the quarterback on Sunday, Cox was extremely disruptive against the Falcons. 

He finished the game with one QB hit, but had six hurries that either set up his teammates or affected Matt Ryan. Cox faced double-teams for a lot of the game, but when he got 1-on-1s, he did his damage. 

Here's a look at Cox's disruptiveness from Sunday: 

On this first play, with 3:25 left in the first quarter, Cox is lined up on right guard Chris Chester, who had a tough afternoon against the Pro Bowler. This was a key 3rd-and-11 from the Atlanta 25-yard line. 

Nothing too special from Cox on this play. Cox goes wide and Chester tries to get him wider, but Cox is too strong. He collapses the pocket and forces Ryan to throw somewhat off his back foot. Ryan is able to complete an 8-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu, but Malcolm Jenkins tackles him short of the sticks. 

This next play comes with 1:27 left in the first half. The Falcons just got the ball back at the Eagles' 42-yard line following a Carson Wentz fumble. Cox is again lined up against Chester, with Brandon Graham to his left. 

Cox uses his hands and makes a move inside, which gives him a clear path to Ryan. Eventually, Chester is able to get enough of a block on Cox to make sure he doesn't sack the quarterback, but the damage on this play is done. The pocket is gone and Ryan has to try to step up to avoid the pressure. 

Graham gets credit for the six-yard sack, but it was Cox who forced the pressure. This sack was huge because three plays later, Matt Bryant missed a 53-yard field goal. 

This next play comes in the fourth quarter. The Falcons already have the lead, so the Eagles need to hold them. (They do and then take the lead back on the ensuing drive.)

The Falcons show a sweep to the left, but it's a play action. 

Off the play action, Ryan has what looks to be a huge pocket. But Cox is about to absolutely wreck it. Still working 1-on-1 against Chester, he moves the 300-pound lineman out of the way and gets his quarterback hit on Ryan. Incomplete pass. 

Here's a video to prove just how strong Cox can be: 

Two plays later, Cox shows off his quickness. Cox is again lined up against Chester, but he doesn't stay that way. 

Cox works to his right and is so quick, left guard Andy Levitre doesn't see him until he's already past him. In an effort to avoid the rush, Ryan quickly delivers a pass that falls incomplete. 

Most of the pressure that Cox generated on Sunday came from 1-on-1s, but he was doubled for much of the afternoon. When he was, his teammates were able to sometimes take advantage of their 1-on-1s. 

The bottom line is this: Cox might not have the numbers, but he's still playing at a high level. We'll leave you with a reminder of just how often Cox gets doubled: 

Yeah, he's still good. 

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.

Extremely close predictions for championship weekend

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USA Today Images

Extremely close predictions for championship weekend

One team had to make a game-saving defensive stand, the other gets a miraculous touchdown, and so here they stand — the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings are at the doorstep of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. 

These two teams mirror each other so much. Both are guided by quarterbacks who were backups on their depth charts when this long journey began. Both have defenses that can clamp down on opposing offenses. Both with identical records. And both have never won a Super Bowl (Vikings 0-4, Eagles 0-2). 

For Nick Foles, it's imperative that he stays within himself. Stick to the short, high-percentage passing game and hopefully get some much needed help from the run game. 

Against the Falcons, the Eagles had 49 yards rushing in the opening quarter but only 47 the rest of the game against Atlanta's ninth-ranked run defense. 

Minnesota's defense is ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 against the run, No. 2 against the pass and No. 1 in points allowed. 

The Eagles' defensive front has to get to Vikings QB Case Keenum before he can find Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Both are excellent route runners with exceptional hands. What a matchup up this is. Pat Shurmur's offense against Jim Schwartz's defense. 

I've gone back and forth all week on who will win this game in what could be your basic backyard brawl. So what I came up with is this: In the final seconds of the game, the Eagles will be down one point when Jake Elliott gets the call and nails a 50-yarder as time expires. Eagles win 23-21 and dance their way to the Superbowl. 
 
Jaguars at Patriots (Sunday, 3:05 p.m. on CBS)
Who would have thought Jacksonville would be playing for the AFC Championship, except maybe the Jaguars? There's no question Jacksonville has a top-notch defense but their offense is hard to figure out. In their first-round playoff game at home against Buffalo, the Jags barely scored 10 points and quarterback Blake Bortles was 12 of 23 for 87 yards with a TD. 

The following week, the Jaguars go on the road and put up 45 points in Pittsburgh with Bortles throwing for 214 yards with a TD. Look for Jacksonville to lean on its freight train of a running back, Leonard Fournette, who ran for 109 yards against the Steelers and scored three rushing TDs. 

Tom Brady is 40 years old but he is still the G.O.A.T. until further notice. Brady lit up Tennessee's defense last week for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns. 

It will be interesting to see how the Jags try to neutralize Rob Gronkowski. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey has made the bold prediction that Jacksonville is going to the Super Bowl. The Jaguars' defense has the capability to make it a long, miserable day for Brady and Co.

But Brady and his crew have playoff experience on their side and Bill Belichick is the ultimate big-game coach. Unfortunately, the evil empire that is New England will be heading to another Super Bowl.

Patriots 27, Jaguars 24