McCoy on 40-yard dash, duos & spirit animals
LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 932 rushing yards and ranks second with 45 first downs on the ground. (USA Today Images)
LeSean McCoy said he never knew, but the NFL’s rushing leader from day one had briefly fallen from the pedestal.
Last Thursday night, when the Redskins and the Vikings played at Minnesota, both starting running backs -- Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris -- had leapfrogged McCoy in the race for the NFL’s rushing title.
Peterson’s 75 yards inflated his season total to 786. Morris’ 139-yard breakout upped his total to 825, tops in the NFL.
McCoy, coming off three straight games of sub-56 yards, stood at 777 going into a game against Green Bay, which then featured the NFL’s third-ranked rushing defense. By week’s end, it sure seemed as if McCoy’s spot atop the throne would be relinquished.
“During the [Green Bay] game, they put the top-10 rushing leaders on the scoreboard and you can see LeSean at number three,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “You can see how far away he was. Then after the game, you’re like ... OK, we’re good.”
That’s because the offensive line helped clear the way for McCoy’s third-most productive rushing effort of the season, 155 yards on 23 carries, an average of 6.0 yards per carry that enabled the Eagles to leave Lambeau with a 27-13 win.
McCoy saved his best for last, rushing for 41 yards -- more than one-quarter of his game total -- during a nine-minute, 32-second drive in the fourth quarter that drained the clock and shattered any hope the Packers had of coming back.
Although McCoy insisted that he’s not keeping track of rushing leaders, Mathis said the linemen are.
“We’re not blind to it. Offensive linemen, what kind of stats do you have?” he said. “The rushing yards, you’d like to think you have a hand in that. You have a great back making some great plays, but you’d like to think you’re a part of that. There’s a time and place to reflect on that, and you do take pride in that, absolutely.”
The offensive line can take pride in McCoy’s feasible pursuit of the club record for rushing yards in a season. At his current pace, the fifth-year pro would rush for 1,491 yards, which would be the second-greatest single-season rushing total behind Wilbert Montgomery’s 1,512 in 1979.
“The good thing is, the linemen really keep track of all them things,” McCoy said. “From time to time I’ll take glance at it and take a look at it, but I more look at the players. If they’re on TV, I’ll watch them instead of going to ESPN.com and looking at the stats. It’s just about winning games.
“Any back will tell you, it’s cool if you’re getting the rushing title, but if you’re doing it losing-wise, it’s not the same. When you’re winning, you have a big game yardage-wise and you won, that’s a way bigger deal than when you lose and you’ve got 180 yards. You’re on the plane like, ‘Yeah,’ but you lost, so it doesn’t add up.”
Seventeen years have passed since any Eagles running back eclipsed 1,400 rushing yards. In 1996, Ricky Watters rushed for 1,411 yards. Watters and McCoy are each from Harrisburg, Pa., and McCoy considers Watters one of his mentors.
McCoy’s best game this season came against the Redskins in the season opener, when he exploded for 184 yards on 31 carries -- the ninth-highest rushing total in team history -- and enabled coach Chip Kelly to storm onto the national scene with a 33-27 win in his NFL coaching debut.
The Redskins were the first to face Kelly’s up-tempo, no-huddle attack and weren’t ready for the pace and spacing that propelled McCoy to the second-biggest rushing game of his career. They stayed in their nickel for the entire game, showing more respect to Michael Vick’s left arm and DeSean Jackson’s breakaway speed, and missed one tackle after another on McCoy.
“The fact that we’ve faced [Kelly’s offense] at least one time I think will definitely be a benefit for us, as opposed to facing it for the first time at the start of the season,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “It’s to our benefit, I guess, to say we’ve faced it at least once.”
The Redskins, who have the NFL’s sixth-worst overall defense, are a middle-of-the-pack run defense, allowing 113.7 rushing yards per game.
“A lot of things have changed since day one,” McCoy said. “We don’t look at that game and think it’s going to be the same results.”