Phil Sheridan: McCoy comes up big when it counts

Posted: October 01, 2012

Maybe LeSean McCoy just wanted to stay loose. Maybe he was sending a little message to the Eagles coaching staff, something like: Getting bored over here, guys!

Another offensive drive had just fizzled. McCoy watched from an unwelcome spot on the sideline.

On first down, rookie back Bryce Brown was stopped for no gain. On second, rookie wide receiver Damaris Johnson lost a yard on a draw play, one of those too-cute plays that makes the coaches feel like they're breaking new ground.

On third and 11, the Giants blitzed and Michael Vick overthrew DeSean Jackson.

McCoy turned around and walked over to the stationary bike at the far left end of the Eagles bench, jumped on, and started pedaling.

If McCoy was sending a message, it just might have been received by Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg.

From that drive on, the Eagles offensive masterminds managed to find ways to get the football to their best player.

McCoy touched the ball five times on the 11-play drive that finally woke up the Linc's scoreboard operator late in the first half. He didn't make the big play - that was Michael Vick's pass to an embarrassingly open DeSean Jackson - but one of the passes he caught was for 12 yards.

The Giants defense, which had pressured Vick relentlessly, suddenly had to account for McCoy, and it made all the difference.

This shouldn't qualify as a big deal. But it did for reasons that are all-too-obvious to longtime observers of Reid's Eagles. Last week in Arizona, with Vick under blistering pressure, the Eagles just kept dialing up pass plays. They might as well have tossed blood in the water while Vick was being attacked by sharks.

After the game, Reid acknowledged that with "hindsight," it might have been a good idea to run the ball more than five times (against 25 pass calls). There was simply no way to anticipate that a voracious Arizona defense might blitz a lot against a turnover-prone quarterback missing Jeremy Maclin and 40 percent of his offensive line. A couple days later, Mornhinweg scoffed at all that run/pass ratio chatter and said the Eagles were always going to be aggressive.

Translation: We'll be chucking and ducking against the G-Men Sunday, boys.

And they were. Until, once again, it became clear that Vick's football (and maybe actual) life expectancy was again at risk. Last week, Reid and Mornhinweg made the fatal error of waiting until the second half, with a 24-0 deficit, before adjusting. This time, they figured it out in time - perhaps while McCoy was practicing for the Tour de France.

"I think we just stuck with it," McCoy said, explaining the success of the run game. "The Giants are a good team. That front four is one of the best you'll see in this league. We just kept sticking with it. We were running stuff to the outside, the inside, the outside. We had that feeling."

When the Eagles came out for the third quarter this week, they were up by 7-3 instead of trailing by 24-0. The difference? No turnovers. This time, when they leaned on McCoy, there was still plenty of game left to control.

"We got into a rhythm," Reid said, "which is huge."

That first drive of the second half was a work of art. McCoy's first two runs went for no gain and 4 yards. The third, a blast around right end, went for 34. On the very next play, he came right back for 22 more yards, all the way to the Giants' 1-yard line.

Those of us who think the Eagles get too fancy inside the 10 are in no position to criticize the play calling. McCoy ran three times, twice to the right side and once to the left. The Giants stopped him three times, and the Eagles kicked a field goal.

That red-zone whiff looked awfully big when the Giants came back to take a 17-16 lead with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It was going to take another late drive - the third in four games - for the Eagles to have a chance to win.

Not only did they drive the length of the field for the game-winning field goal, they ate nearly five minutes off the clock and forced the Giants to burn timeouts on defense. McCoy ran the ball five times on the drive for 32 yards. He finished with 123 yards on 23 carries.

Then he watched the Giants make it interesting - if you consider an attack of hypertension in the final minute interesting.

"You start thinking of all the plays you could have made," McCoy said. "Like if I had just scored a touchdown . . ."

No regrets here. And no hindsight necessary, either. Instead of taking McCoy out of the game themselves, the Eagles forced the Giants to try to do it. Once he got off the bike, they had no chance.


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan

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