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November 29, 2016

Fletcher Cox has cost the Eagles 15 points this year with bad penalties

Eagles NFL
112916FletcherCox Chris Szagola/AP

Eagles DT Fletcher Cox.

With a high priority placed on protecting quarterbacks (Cam Newton aside), being a pass rusher in the NFL isn't always easy. All game long, you fight through offensive linemen who are holding you, and if you're able to get a crack at the quarterback, you have to be precise with where you hit him while playing at a high speed, or you may just draw a devastating flag.

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However, every pass rusher knows this (or at least they should), and must know that they also have to play smart. That is not something that Eagles DT Fletcher Cox has always done this season. On three occasions in the first 11 games, Cox has committed roughing the quarterback penalties on third down plays that would have otherwise ended drives. Instead, on all three occasions, the Eagles' opponents eventually scored touchdowns on those penalty-extended drives. Let's review all three:

1) Eagles vs. Lions: 14-7 Lions, 3rd and 9 from the Eagles' 18 yard line

Here the Eagles sack Matthew Stafford, but not before Cox simply rips Stafford's helmet right off of his head:

The Lions should have been kicking a field goal here. Instead, two plays later, touchdown.

2) Eagles vs. Redskins: 14-14 score, 3rd and Goal from the Eagles' 4 yard line, just before the end of the half

Here Kirk Cousins throws an incomplete pass, but Cox barrels in and lays a completely avoidable helmet-to-helmet shot on the quarterback.

Again, the Redskins should have been kicking a field goal here. Instead, three plays later, touchdown.

3) Eagles vs. Packers: 17-13 Packers, 3rd and 3 from the Packers' 32 yard line, end of the 3rd quarter

While this play is a little more forgivable that the first two, Cox still clearly strikes Aaron Rodgers in the neck, and clotheslines him. The broadcast booth did not like the call, but if you slow it down frame-by-frame, the video shows that Cox's initial contact did land on Rodgers' neck, not his chest. It was indeed the correct (and in my opinion, obvious) call.

"Anytime you strike the quarterback in the head-neck area, obviously the flag is going to be thrown," Doug Pederson agreed while speaking to reporters on Monday.

The Packers would have punted here, giving the Eagles a chance to take a fourth quarter lead. Instead, 12 plays later, touchdown.

Cox did not believe that he committed a penalty Monday night, and seemed dismissive of his penalties in general.

“I mean when you play as hard as I play and aggressive as I play, stuff like that happens," said Cox. "I did talk to the referee, he said it was just one of those things where it was close so he had to call that, that’s how they’re protecting the quarterbacks.”

That is absolutely not the way to view it from Cox's perspective. "Stuff like that happens" when you continue to hit quarterbacks in the head and neck area and do nothing to change an approach that is killing your team.

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