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LeSean McCoy’s 514 yards from scrimmage are 11th-most ever by an NFL player after three games. (AP)
Fifteen years after he retired and nine years after he went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Barry Sanders is getting ready to face the Broncos.
At least that’s what it sounds like listening to the Broncos.
Broncos safety Rahim Moore and head coach John Fox both compared LeSean McCoy to Sanders on Wednesday as they prepare to face McCoy and the Eagles on Sunday afternoon in Denver.
Moore called McCoy “the new era of Barry Sanders,” and Fox compared his elusive and explosive running style to the former Lions great.
“He’s the best running back, to me, in open space,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said.
“Definitely as a team defense, we have to be very disciplined this week. We’ve got to stop McCoy. If we don’t stop No. 25, it’s going to be a long day for us.”
Peyton Manning isn’t the only player who’ll be on the field Sunday who’s off to one of the best starts in NFL history.
McCoy’s 514 yards from scrimmage (rushing plus receiving) are 11th-most ever by an NFL player after three games, and his 395 rushing yards are 15th-most in NFL history after three games.
Nobody has rushed for more than 36 yards against the Broncos this year, partly because the Broncos are always so far ahead that teams abandon the run but also because they have a pretty good rush defense.
Ray Rice was 12-for-36 rushing, Bernard Pierce 9-for-22, Darren McFadden 12-for-9 and Brandon Jacobs was 7-for-4.
But McCoy, so far, has been the best tailback in the NFL.
“He makes guys miss, and that’s something we have to be aware of,” Harris said. “We have to have great tackles if he does ever bust out. That’s when he makes his money, when he gets out in space. He makes a lot of guys miss.”
McCoy leads the NFL in rushing by nearly 100 yards, and his 6.4 rushing average is best among all backs with 20 or more carries.
He’s raised his career rushing average to 4.8 yards per carry, tied for 10th-best in NFL history among running backs with at least 750 carries.
McCoy has already fashioned two of the three-highest rushing totals of his career this year, with 184 yards against the Redskins and 158 yards against the Chiefs.
“It’s going to take more than one guy to tackle him,” Fox said. “He’ll play snap to whistle all the way to the ball because he can show up anywhere. He’s kind of Barry Sanders as far as his running style.”
The Broncos have the No. 1 rush defense in the NFL, allowing just 43 yards per game, ninth-fewest in NFL history after three games, and just 2.3 yards per carry, by far the lowest in the league.
McCoy said those figures are a little deceiving, since most teams aren’t running the ball after the Broncos go up by 50 points at halftime.
“Once you punt the ball to Peyton Manning, you kind of count that as seven,” McCoy said. “So it's hard to run the ball when you're down so early, so you can't look at it like that all the time.
“But they're a good defense. Big up front, aggressive group. It'll be a good matchup. I have a lot of confidence in my guys up front. The whole year they've been playing excellent. I'll put them up against anybody."
This game has no shortage of storylines. Most of the focus has been on Manning facing one of the league’s lowest-rated defenses (see story), but the Broncos aren’t the only team that’ll be on the field in Denver Sunday that can put up points in a hurry.
“This is a great offense (see story),” Moore said. “You have the new era of Barry Sanders at running back. You have a Hall of Fame quarterback, great receivers.
“Those guys can make plays. It’s exciting to watch those guys on film because you respect them, but at the end of the day we have to try to contain them.”