McCoy's chance to shine when it counts most

LeSean McCoy, celebrating last week after the win over Dallas, would like to keep his career-best performance level going in the playoffs. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
LeSean McCoy, celebrating last week after the win over Dallas, would like to keep his career-best performance level going in the playoffs. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: January 05, 2014

No, was LeSean McCoy's answer to the simple question.

"There are tons of great backs that didn't win in the playoffs and Super Bowl," the NFL's rushing and yards from scrimmage leader said this week when asked if playoff success was required to define a running back's status as one of the all-time greats.

McCoy, at the moment, is one of the great ones with a hole in his postseason resumé. At 25 and in his fifth season, the Eagles' most lethal offensive weapon has time and even more desire to change that fact.

"As a player, you want to win games and play in the playoffs and have success as a team," McCoy said. "The playoffs are hard to get here and it's hard to stay. You just know there is no tomorrow and you have to play hard every game and every second and every play. If we do that together, we should be fine."

For most of McCoy's career he has drawn comparisons to Detroit's Barry Sanders, a Hall of Fame back from the 1990s who rarely seemed to be at his best when the games meant the most. Sanders played in the same era as Dallas star Emmitt Smith, and you can find more than a few people who will tell you that Sanders was the better player.

You won't find anyone who will tell you that Sanders had a more satisfying career, because Smith has three Super Bowl rings, a Super Bowl MVP, and a dozen playoff victories to go along with his Hall of Fame regular-season resumé. Sanders won the first playoff game he ever participated in against the Cowboys and never won another.

Sanders also endured some tortuous playoff experiences, including a game in which he ran for minus-1 yard on 13 carries in a 16-12 loss at Green Bay.

To date, McCoy has played in only two playoff games and has been unspectacular in both. He had five rushes for 24 yards and one catch for 9 yards in a lopsided loss at Dallas as a rookie and a year later in a home loss to Green Bay he ran 12 times for 46 yards and caught four passes for 36 yards.

Much more will be needed from McCoy when the Eagles play the New Orleans Saints at the frozen Linc on Saturday night. Brian Westbrook and McCoy's running backs coach, Duce Staley, had some memorable postseason moments during the Andy Reid era, but neither was as talented as McCoy, who has a legitimate chance to go down as one of the best backs in league history.

In order to depart as one of the most satisfied backs in league history, McCoy will need to have some special days in January and at least one on the first Sunday in February. Saturday's game would be a great place to start, because McCoy is coming off such a spectacular season and has found first-year coach Chip Kelly's system to be a perfect fit for his skill set.

Confidence was certainly not lacking as he prepared for a Saints defense that ranked fourth overall in the NFL this season, but just 19th against the run.

"We're made for the playoffs," McCoy said. "Everybody is so excited for us to be in the playoffs, but we should be here. Everybody is so excited about us being division champs, but I think we should be. We prepare hard each game and we have so much talent on this team, so we prepared to be division champs and we are prepared to win this game.

"Sure, the Saints are a good team for sure and they're a very explosive offense and a solid defense, but the guys in our locker room and our coaches believe we can get the job done," he said.

McCoy, in fact, believes that he can take the game over in the fourth quarter.

"I think that's true for the running backs and the offensive line," McCoy said. "The more plays you get and the more you run the ball, the more comfortable you get. You see the different looks and how the defense adjusts to different plays and you feel them out. The fourth quarter you kind of can really take over."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a lot of weapons at his disposal, with the biggest one literally and figuratively being 6-foot-7 tight end Jimmy Graham. But the future Hall of Fame quarterback does not have a single weapon as dangerous as McCoy.

"His ability to bounce, cut and then put his foot in the ground and get north and south is unique," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

That's the same super power Barry Sanders had during his career and it has long been established that McCoy is the closest thing the NFL has seen to the Hall of Fame Lions running back. Now McCoy has another chance to avoid the great disappointments that Sanders so often endured at this time of year.


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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