Early in the season, as he recovered from offseason toe surgery, it was clear that Fletcher Cox simply wasn’t himself.
Guess what? He’s back.
He’s back in a big way. Even though his stat line didn’t jump off the page — two tackles, one quarterback hit — the Eagles’ All-Pro defensive tackle was a one-man wrecking crew against the Bears on Sunday, despite facing constant double teams.
And it started with the first series of the game.
“I was like, ‘Boy, you are on because you hit the quarterback on the first pass rush,’” Brandon Graham said. “That’s Fletch being Fletch. I’m glad Fletch back at it.”
This first play is actually the second play from scrimmage in the game. Most of what I’m going to show you are pass rush plays from Cox, but he’s equally as dominant in the run game. On this play, he's at LDT and sees the double team and uses his get-off to split it. Then, he drives the right tackle back into the running back David Montgomery, giving the rookie nowhere to go. There might have been a brief hole for Montgomery if Cox didn’t blow up the line.
Montgomery gets tackled for a three-yard loss. This brings up a 3rd-and-9.
On third down, the Eagles show blitz and Cox lines up over the center. With the blitz, the Bears can’t double cox, so he’s going 1-on-1 against center James Daniels. Poor James Daniels. Cox puts the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Daniels on roller skates. Mitchell Trubisky knows he has to deliver the ball quickly, but doesn’t get much on the throw thanks to the pressure. He throws it off his back foot and it’s incomplete. The Eagles’ defense gets a quick 3-and-out thanks to Cox.
This is the most shocking play of the day from Cox and it comes on the Bears’ second drive. Here he is casually tossing a 326-pound guard out of his way with his right paw.
The right guard, Rashaad Coward, barely slows Cox down enough to allow his help to get there. (Meanwhile, Anthony Rush does a pretty good job with his 1-on-1 created by the Cox double team.) Trubisky sees the carnage in front of him and tries to flee the pocket, but Brandon Graham was waiting for him. Graham gets the sack, but Cox deserves an assist.
This play comes on a 3rd-and-8 in the second quarter, you’ll see the overload on the left side of the line with Cox, Graham and Derek Barnett and, again, the Eagles show blitz, which means 1-on-1s. Barnett, from his LDE position, loops inside and comes unblocked. But what’s fun about this play is that Cox almost makes it to the quarterback at the same time as he goes through an offensive lineman. Somehow Barnett missed this sack, but Josh Sweat is ready to clean up.
Later in the second quarter, wee see a fun front from Jim Schwartz. They basically have new acquisition Genard Avery in the game as an extra stand-up rusher on this 3rd-and-10. Trusbisky doesn’t have a prayer. But you’ll notice that the A-gap Avery shoots to get to the quarterback has been completely vacated because, again, Cox gets double-teamed. Even though there’s clearly a blitz coming from the right side of the Eagles’ defense, the center still shades Cox’s way. On the other side, there aren’t enough blockers.
And still, Cox probably would have had a sack on this play if Avery and Malcolm Jenkins didn’t get there first. Party at the QB.
This play is just another example of how much attention Cox warrants. This time, the TE/FB is going to help, which is good news for the Bears, because Cox immediately slips the 1-on-1 and gets held. With all that attention on Cox, the Eagles’ linebackers are there to clean up and make an easy tackle for a minimal gain on the play. (Nice big-man toss from Vinny Curry.)
With 8:52 left in the game, the Bears are facing a 3rd-and-9. Thanks to a monster drive from the Eagles’ offense later, this ends up being the Bears’ final offensive play of the game. The Eagles ran this play before, with Barnett looping, but this is just another example of how unblockable Cox is right now. Pressure from him and Graham forces Trubisky to rush a throw off his back foot and Avonte Maddox makes a nice play to force the incompletion.
Signs of life from the Eagles’ pass rush have been there for a few weeks now, but the fact that Cox is back to his dominant self is huge. The Eagles are going to need him to continue this dominance down the stretch. Now that he’s healthy, that shouldn’t be a problem.
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