FOXBORO, Mass. — Fletcher Cox’s eyes lit up just thinking about it.
The Eagles’ veteran defensive tackle is in his 12th NFL season but he still remembers his first career sack. “Absolutely,” Cox said. It came in his NFL debut on the road against the Cleveland Browns in 2012. He took down Brandon Weeden and he’ll never forget it.
That’s why Cox knows just how special a moment Jalen Carter had on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in the Eagles’ 25-20 win over the New England Patriots.
Not only did Carter record his first NFL sack, but he did so with under a minute remaining in a one-score game on the road. It’s a play the Eagles’ No. 9 overall pick from Georgia will also never forget.
“You gotta remember that moment forever, right?” Cox said. “You remember that moment forever. You never forget it. For me, that was 12 years ago. I still remember it.”
It didn’t take Carter very long to flash in his NFL debut. In fact, he got pressure on Mac Jones for a lot of Sunday’s game but he wasn’t able to bring him down until the final minute of the game. Carter got enough pressure in this game that the Patriots even began to shift help his way.
“It felt good,” Carter said. “I’m on the sidelines talking, like, ‘I gotta close, I gotta close, I gotta close, I’m gonna get him this time.’ I finally got him. I feel happy about that.”
With just 58 seconds left in the game, the Patriots were driving with a chance to take their first lead of the afternoon. On 2nd-and-10 from the Eagles’ 19-yard line, the Eagles sent Christian Elliss on a blitz and when Jones stepped up, Carter was there waiting for him.
Who knows what would have happened if Carter wasn’t able to clean up.
“Boy, it felt good,” Brandon Graham said. “Because [Jones] had a lane right there. [Carter] was the last man right there of defense. I was just happy to see him get his first one and on top of that an important one in the moment. I don’t care who makes the play but just be in position to make it.”
After Carter’s sack, the Patriots picked up just 2 yards on third down and Jones’ fourth-down pass carried his receiver out of bounds for an incompletion. That was the ballgame.
It wasn’t a pretty win for the Eagles but they are out to a 1-0 start in 2023 and despite some offensive struggles, the Eagles’ defense got a couple huge stops late in this game.
Carter became the third Eagles rookie to record a sack on the road in his first career game. The others were Cox in 2012 and Corey Simon in 2000.
The Eagles led the NFL with 70 sacks last season but they didn’t bring down Jones until the 2:59 mark of the fourth quarter. That’s when Josh Sweat and Jordan Davis combined for a sack on 2nd down.
That was also the first sack of Davis’s NFL career. Davis had an active game with 6 tackles, a QB hit, a TFL and a huge forced fumble in the first half.
As excited as Carter was for his plays on Sunday, he was seemingly just as excited for Davis. Especially after that forced fumble.
“Man, when I seen him make that tackle, it reminded me of Georgia days when he was just running down the QB or something like that,” Carter said. “His tackle form is always insane. I was very happy in the moment. I almost shed a tear, man. It’s good to see JD running around and moving. It was a happy moment for me.”
Carter also admitted that his sack on Jones was extra sweet because he still remembers losing to Alabama 41-24 during his freshman season at Georgia. Jones threw for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns in that game.
This was a little revenge.
“Oh yeah,” Carter said. “It’s fun because I remember my freshman year he beat us. I wanted to say it to him but he probably don’t even know me.”
It’s safe to say Jones definitely knows Carter now. He was the No. 98 in his face for a lot of Sunday afternoon.
The rest of the NFL is on notice now too. Carter said one of his goals this season is to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Just one game into his rookie season, he’s off to a pretty good start.
“I’m excited for him,” Graham said. “He was itching to get out there. We got such a great D-line. … It’s just good to see the young guys are in shape, on top of that, I was glad he got his first (sack).”
It’s a moment the Eagles and Carter won’t soon forget.