Head coach Chip Kelly knew it was only a matter of time before Fletcher Cox had a game like this. And most Eagles fans who've watched the former first-round pick play over the past four seasons felt that way too.
Cox is one of the standouts on a defensive unit that has been among the league's best this season, and in Sunday's 39-17 rout against New Orleans he notched six tackles, three of which were sacks and another a tackle for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. His three takedowns of the quarterback made him one of just 18 Eagles ever to hit that mark in a game.
But despite his inspired performance against the Saints, the 24-year-old deflected praise and hoisted all of it upon his teammates after the game.
"I'm going to give the credit to the back end today," he said of the excellent pass coverage provided by the Eagles' defensive backfield. "All three of those sacks were coverage sacks. ... I knew it was going to be a grind playing against a Hall of Fame quarterback. Drew Brees was getting the ball out early, and the couple times he held the ball we got great coverage and were able to get after the quarterback."
Cox is never one to turn the spotlight onto himself. It's not in his nature, and even if it were it's not something he would get to do often. For the most part, the work he does on Sundays flies under the rader. As a defensive end in a 3-4 system, it's his job to use his size to draw attention from the opposing team's offensive line and open things up for second-level defenders to make plays.
Life as a lineman in the 3-4 can be tough. Statistics are naturally muted by scheme, and truly great players are often overlooked by more casual fans. Few Eagles fans would have argued that Cox was one of the most valuable members of the team's defense last season, but in 16 games he notched 48 tackles and four sacks, which ranked sixth and fifth for Philadelphia, respectively. When it came time to select players for the Pro Bowl, Cox's name garnered little national attention. But defensive coordinator Bill Davis hopes games like this will help change the league's perception of the budding star.
"I hope the outside world recognized the talent that he has," said Davis. "He's a Pro Bowl-caliber player. I've been around a long time, and that's what they look like. They play the run, and they cause disruptions in the passing game. Sack numbers come and go, but he has the skill set."
But Cox doesn't seem to mind being shrouded in relative obscurity. For him, the only thing that matters is the success of his unit, and the team as a whole. Stats are nice, but wins are better, he says.
"It's the fifth game of the season. (I'm not) thinking about being All-Pro, or Pro Bowl, or none of that," he said. "Most importantly, we won the football game. That's the most important thing about it, to get this team back on a good roll."
The Eagles returned home to face the Saints in Week 5 of the regular season. View the full gallery here...