Midway through the second quarter of Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Carolina Panthers had the ball, the momentum and the lead in the game.
But the Eagles had Fletcher Cox.
Cox, who missed the last two weeks for Philadelphia, started on the defensive line on Thursday. On this particular play, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton dropped back to pass deep in Carolina territory ... and Cox came straight at him. He bulldozed through the offensive line and went straight at Newton.
“I knew they were backed up,” Cox said. “I just bulled the guard into the quarterback’s lap and went after the throwing arm.”
Cox hit Newton’s arm as he passed, popping the ball high up into the air. It hung there for a second, and then fell straight into the waiting arms of Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas.
“I was on my guy and I saw the ball coming,” Douglas said. “I think someone tipped it, for sure. It was in the air a long time, and I just ran under it.
“I was trying to score, but I didn’t get in there.”
Douglas may not have gotten into the end zone, but the short field his turnover gave to Philadelphia’s offense meant it was only a matter of time. Seven plays later, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz found tight end Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone for the tying touchdown. That was the same drive where Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly suffered his third concussion in three years.
The Eagles didn’t trail again for the rest of the game.
Cox’s tip and Douglas’ pick figured to be one of the game’s turning points, as well as the first of three interceptions Newton threw in the loss. Newton threw a career-high 52 pass attempts against the Eagles, but only had one touchdown to go with the three turnovers.
Newton’s struggles were ultimately Philadelphia’s gains, but Douglas made it clear after the game that his interception wasn’t all his doing. In fact, since Cox helped him on the stat sheet, the cornerback said he’d help the defensive lineman off the field.
“(Cox) told me at halftime, he was like, ‘Yeah, that was me (who tipped it),’” Douglas said. “I was like, you got it bro.
“Now I owe him. I’m gonna get him a steak or something.”