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When Fletcher Cox left with a stinger, so did the Eagles’ pass rush against Dallas

A calf injury kept Derek Barnett in Philadelphia. Cox's injury was too much for the defensive line to overcome.

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox watches from the sideline late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. He left the game in the first half with a stinger.
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox watches from the sideline late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. He left the game in the first half with a stinger.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

The Eagles were leading at Dallas, 14-3 in the second quarter, when the Fox broadcast abruptly cut to a shot of defensive tackle Fletcher Cox sitting on the bench in his black sleeveless uniform undershirt, Cox not wearing a jersey or pads. Cox was said to be questionable to return.

Guys don’t sit on the bench with their jersey and pads off when they are planning a return. Three plays after the sideline shot, Dallas made it 14-10 on a 21-yard Andy Dalton pass to Michael Gallup, and the onslaught began.

The Eagles, who entered the game second in the NFL with 44 sacks, needed an outstanding day from their pass rush to keep Dalton from shredding their depleted secondary. After Cox left, they certainly didn’t get it.

Defensive end Derek Barnett was inactive, a calf injury keeping him in Philadelphia. This news came just after the team placed defensive end Josh Sweat on injured reserve.

Cox sat out of practice all week with a neck injury. Eventually he was officially ruled out of Sunday’s game with a stinger, which is a nerve injury that has to do with the spine in the neck area.

Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham made the Pro Bowl this year, the sixth time in a row for Cox.

» READ MORE: Eagles blow chance at the postseason, losing 37-17 at Dallas

“We went out there and we battled, man,” Graham said. “I played a lot this game; I knew we got to dig deep. We been dealing with that all year, injuries here and there. But no excuses. ... We fought, we scratched, we clawed, we did all we could do.”

Barnett, who struggled with injuries in 2018 and 2019, had missed only this season’s opener before sitting out Sunday. He’d played 76% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps the previous week, at Arizona.

Sweat had played in every game this season, amassing a career-high six sacks, and seemed poised for a big finish after adding two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles’ upset of the Saints. Instead, he left the Arizona game after only four snaps and won’t play again in 2020.

In the absence of Barnett and Sweat, defensive end Joe Ostman was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, and Genard Avery was active. They had no impact on the game.

Inactive along with Barnett were running back Jason Huntley, wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, third quarterback Nate Sudfeld, tight end Richard Rodgers, wide receiver John Hightower, and linebacker Duke Riley, a strong contributor lately who is sidelined with a biceps injury.

DeSean’s cameo

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson made only his fifth appearance of the season, and when he burst ahead of the defense to catch an 81-yard touchdown pass on the Eagles’ second possession, it looked as if his return might be a pretty big deal.

It wasn’t. Jackson, 34, never saw the ball again.

Jackson missed three games with a hamstring problem earlier this season, returned Oct. 22 against the Giants, and suffered an ankle fracture on a brutal hit while attempting a punt return for the first time since 2018.

Doug Pederson’s explanation Sunday was that the ankle got sore after Jackson scored his touchdown, negating his explosiveness. He moved into third place in the franchise’s all-time receiving yards list, with 6,512, surpassing Mike Quick’s 6,464.

» READ MORE: A good loss, a bad day for Michael Jacquet, and other observations from the Eagles’ loss | Mike Sielski