Early Birds: Fletcher Cox's performance; Sam Bradford's turnover; Rex Ryan on Philadelphia
Fletcher Cox’s conventional stats did not pop out in the Eagles’ win over the Patriots Sunday. He had three tackles, no sacks. Yet Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised him after the game. A Patriots assistant sought Cox out to compliment him. And anyone watching saw the effect that Cox had on the game.
1) Fletcher Cox's conventional stats did not pop out in the Eagles' win over the Patriots on Sunday. He had three tackles, no sacks. Yet Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised him after the game. A Patriots assistant sought out Cox to compliment him. And anyone watching saw the effect that Cox had on the game.
Plus, looking beyond tackles and sacks, the numbers also told the story. Cox was credited with eight pressures on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. That was a big reason the Eagles won.
"He was winning one-on-ones," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "Those guards were struggling with him. We move Fletch around. We move them all around, but we move Fletch around to any matchup that we see fit. Inside on the guards, he was beating them quick. They were one-move wins, and he had a big game."
Cox's disruption caused one of Brady's interceptions. Yet Cox did not want to hear about quarterback hurries. He wants sacks.
"I've gotta finish," Cox said. "There were a few plays where I had him this weekend and I didn't finish the play. I was mad at myself. If I don't finish, I feel like I let the man next to me down or the team down or some big play might happen because I didn't finish."
Cox has 42 tackles and 5.5 sacks this season. He would need to go on a tear to finish with double-digit sacks. Cox will get Pro Bowl consideration, but Davis thinks a few more sacks would put Cox in the conversation for defensive player of the year.
"I think he's having an outstanding season," Davis said." If he had the sack numbers to match his pressures, we would be talking about him for defensive MVP. He's having that kind of an effect. He's just not getting the sack numbers for whatever reason. I've been around that before, too, and that's why I don't put a whole lot of stock in [the sacks]. Are you making the quarterback come off his spot? Are you breaking his rhythm like you did the other night? Are you making the quarterback throw before he wants to throw or throw inaccurately?"
Cox was also the Eagles' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. His teammates voted for him based on the way he has dealt with the death of his brother.
2) Sam Bradford has gone 14 quarters without a turnover. It's the way Bradford expected to play earlier in the season, but he had nine interceptions in the first six games.
"Just getting more comfortable, not forcing things, going through my progressions, not sticking on 1 or 2, checking the ball down," Bradford said. "Just trying not to put the team in bad positions."
When the Eagles acquired Bradford, they thought they were getting a quarterback who takes care of the ball. He had 38 interceptions in 49 games with the Rams. That was why the early-season problems were such a big issue.
"It was something I was trying to figure out because I've never been someone to throw a lot of interceptions," Bradford said. "That was new to me, and I think it was a variety of things. I missed some throws that ended up being picked. I made some bad decisions. There were a few [miscommunications]. It was all over the place. Hopefully, we can continue to eliminate those."
Bradford, who won the 2008 Heisman Trophy, has a vote for the annual award. He picked Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who is not one of the three finalists invited to New York.
Bradford keeps his trophy in his home office in Oklahoma. It used to be a centerpiece at his family's dining room table because they had nowhere else to put it.
3) Bills coach Rex Ryan will visit Philadelphia this weekend, and it's a trip he enjoys. Ryan's father, Buddy, coached the Eagles from 1986-1990. The Eagles went 43-35-1 during that span and reached the postseason three times.
"It's always special," Rex Ryan said. "Philadelphia, the way they treated our family and my dad, it's awesome. Anytime my dad would go back, you'd have no idea the smile on his face. He loved Philadelphia. I think he identified big-time with the city. I think the city appreciated him."