FOXBORO -- To say the Buffalo Bills are riding LeSean McCoy would be an understatement. On a team full of flayed-legged foals, the Bills have had to put the saddle on the 29-year old running back this season to mixed results.
McCoy has piled over a thousand yards from scrimmage with a handful of explosive plays. But a closer look at the numbers reveal a runner who’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, down a full yard-and-a-half from the year prior. However, that’s not the back Bill Belichick or his defensive players are seeing.
“It's a power running game with a back that can, literally, run the ball from sideline to sideline and make four guys miss in a phone booth,” Belichick said. “McCoy can take any play and turn it into a play that doesn't look like any other play you've seen before."
“I’ve been playing him since college where we had calls where you’ve got him in a phone booth and you come up with just his towel,” added Devin McCourty, recalling his days at Rutgers facing McCoy’s Pitt Panthers.
McCoy hasn’t had a ton of explosive plays this year, which again shows in the numbers. He has just three runs of 20 or more yards (long is 24). You think at his age and with his experience - this is his 9th NFL season - that maybe McCoy is finally starting to slow down. However, Buffalo’s offensive line has been inconsistent. Only guard Richie Incognito is playing at a level comparable to last year. Thus, some of McCoy’s best runs have been the ones where he avoids taking a loss thanks to his suddenness that - in many ways - reminds you of some of runs we’ve been seeing from Dion Lewis.
“Trying to tackle LeSean is scary in and of itself, the guy can be running this way and all of a sudden cut and he’s going in completely the opposite,” said safety Duron Harmon. “He’s probably the most - if not the most - elusive players in the league.”
“He stresses the defense, for sure,” said Lawrence Guy. “But this is a big game plan game. Do what you’re suppose to do when you’re suppose to do it.”
As part of that plan, the Pats have had it drilled into their heads this week that they must rally to the football, but also make sure they maintain their discipline when they do. That means proper spacing between would-be tacklers and never thinking the play is over until McCoy is on the ground.
“I think everyone else has to realize that when a guy gets a one-on-one shot on him, it doesn’t mean slow down,” said McCourty. “It means let’s all get there. If he makes him miss, let’s all try to get him down after that. For years, for nine years now, he’s been a very tough back to try to take down in the open field, and it’s going to be the same thing Sunday. But, I think we need to have the mentality of all 11 guys on run plays need to be in that coaches’ copy of the film where we talk about getting to the ball and trying to gang tackle him.”