PHILADELPHIA (AP) Fletcher Cox is playing in the first Super Bowl he’s seeing.
Or so he says.
The three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle is a big reason why the Philadelphia Eagles are facing the New England Patriots next Sunday in Minneapolis for a chance to bring home the franchise’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy.
But the 27-year-old Cox isn’t much of a football fan. He insists he’s never even watched a Super Bowl.
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“I don’t watch sports,” Cox said. “You know that.”
If he spends the night getting in Tom Brady‘s face and helps the Eagles win their first NFL title since 1960, Cox may want to watch the highlights sometime.
First, all that matters is winning.
“We haven’t been talked about all year,” Cox said. “That’s our story. No one has been talking about the Eagles, the defense, or the offense. If you go back and look, we finished in the top five of a bunch of different categories. This team just keeps finding ways to win, and that’s our motto.”
Cox, the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft, had 5+ sacks in 14 games, recovered two fumbles and returned one for a touchdown. He often faces two or three blockers, so that allows his teammates opportunities to make plays.
“Cox is as good as anybody in the league at his position,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s a very disruptive player, hard to block, run, pass, no matter what it is.”
Earning praise from Belichick doesn’t come easy. Cox appreciates it.
“It’s a lot of respect from a coach like Belichick, a guy that’s been around, a guy that’s seen a lot of great players in this league,” he said. “For him to say that that means I obviously must be doing something right. But at the same time, I’ve got three other guys besides me that’s helping me push that limit, that’s helping me get that recognition and I want to do the same thing for those guys.”
The Eagles have plenty of depth on their defensive line. Ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry and tackle Tim Jernigan start along with Cox. Chris Long, Derek Barnett and Beau Allen also played at least 40 percent of the snaps.
“I wish it was just four (linemen),” Belichick said. “It’s a very disruptive group. They have some edge rushers, a good interior pass rush. They come hard every play. You have to block them on every play. There are no plays off. To deal with that front down after down, they wear you down. It’s a great group and a huge strength for their defense.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has enough confidence in all the players to rotate them in and out for series at a time. Because they split reps, they still look fresh this late in the season. It showed in a pair of dominant performances against the Falcons and Vikings in the playoffs.
“To roll in that many guys and not see a drop-off, it’s great,” Cox said. “We’re pushing those guys to be on the same level as us.”
Cox knows harassing Brady is the key to success against the Patriots. The Giants sacked Brady five times in their stunning Super Bowl upset 10 years ago, spoiling New England’s perfect season.
Led by Cox and Graham, the Eagles generate a strong rush without having to blitz much. They’ll need to keep extra defenders in the secondary against Brady.
“It’s going to come down to the front four guys getting after the quarterback, making him uncomfortable in the pocket,” Cox said.
Easier said than done against Brady.
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