LOS ANGELES — It was enough to shake your head in disbelief, throw your hands in the air and start to think, maybe this just isn’t their year.
In the first half of Sunday’s eventual win over the Rams at the LA Coliseum, Fletcher Cox hurt his hip. The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive tackle made a visit to that damned blue popup tent that has claimed many of his teammates this season. He walked out of the tent holding his body stiff. Then he rode shotgun on a trainer’s cart, taking the same route Carson Wentz walked on a torn ACL about a year ago.
The Eagles have overcome a lot of injuries this year. They’ve been decimated, in fact. But in the biggest game of the year, with the entire season hanging in the balance, this felt like it could have been a finishing blow.
It wasn’t, of course. Cox returned to the field in time to ruin Jared Goff’s evening as the defensive line got great pressure to help the Eagles pull off an improbable 30-23 win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Nothing was going to stop me from finishing that game,” Cox said after the game like it was obvious.
Not only did Cox return to the game, on his first series back in the second quarter, but he also made a huge play. In a contest that featured some of the best pass rushers in the league, including the NFL’s sack leader on the other sideline, Cox in the second quarter picked up the only sack for either team on Sunday night.
It was a big one too. At the time, the Rams were up 7-6 and a touchdown in that spot would have stretched that lead. But on 3rd-and-11 from the Eagles’ 15-yard line, Cox took down Goff and forced the Rams to settle for a 41-yard field goal. The Eagles took the lead a few minutes later.
“It’s a big relief,” Chris Long said about seeing Cox return to the game. “He’s our best player. He might be our best player on our team. So having him out there, he’s the straw that stirs the drink for us, especially on third down. He creates so many opportunities for so many other people. He works his ass off every day and he’s a tough player as you can see.”
Cox, who just turned 28, came into spring workouts with a big, lofty goal in his sights. He had been to the Pro Bowl, had won a Super Bowl. Cox said he wanted to become the Defensive Player of the Year.
Now, Cox has 7 1/2 sacks this season and, typically, a defensive lineman who wins DPOY needs to get well into double digits. There’s a lot more to Cox’s game than sacks, but that’s sort of been the precedent for the prestigious award.
That’s why, despite getting blanked by the Eagles in the sack department on Sunday, Aaron Donald is still probably the frontrunner to win the award in back-to-back seasons. He has 16 1/2 sacks through 14 games.
But Sunday, Cox proved he’s perhaps as important — perhaps more — to his team.
“I’m a fan of Aaron Donald,” Cox said. “Obviously, that’s my boy. We talk all the time about going out and just being yourself. I think today, I just went out and played my style of football, be physical and get after the quarterback. It was a good day for me.”
It certainly was. As for that hip injury, Cox said he felt fine. He knew might feel some pain in the morning, but Cox was happy to deal with it then. He had a win to celebrate.
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