Sunday, December 8, 2013
Downhill racer: McCoy breaks Lions, record
By Phil Sheridan
LeSean McCoy, right, gained 217 yards Sunday, setting a new single-game team rushing record.
PHILADELPHIA -- Whether you're Chip Kelly or Bode Miller, the best way to handle 3 1/2 inches of fresh snow is the same.
Go downhill. Fast.
The Eagles weren't able to build a freestyle course in time for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. But they were able to turn running back LeSean McCoy loose, letting him freestyle his way to a franchise-record 217 rushing yards -- including game-changing touchdown runs of 40 and 57 yards.
"It was very tough, especially with this defense, to go lateral," Kelly said. "We learned with the weather that it was very difficult to go lateral. We felt like we had to get a downhill game going."
In football talk, of course, that means running straight ahead rather than skiing down a slope. The problem here was that the Lions' defensive line, with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the middle, is very good against the run. The Lions had held their past six opponents to fewer than 70 total rushing yards.
The Eagles ran for 299 yards Sunday -- 244 of them after halftime. McCoy ran for 148 yards and both touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
He regained the NFL rushing lead from Adrian Peterson, who was injured Sunday. McCoy has 1,305 rushing yards on the season.
"He's obviously a great player," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "He's done great things in this offense. As long as I have known him, he's been doing great things. It's a blessing to have that guy on our team."
Listening to his teammates marvel, you'd think McCoy can walk on water. In this game, he did. It was frozen, which made McCoy's cuts and moves that much more impressive.
"It was insane," tight end Brent Celek said. "Sometimes it felt like there were eight inches of snow out there. When you would step, you wouldn't be touching the grass. The fact that he was doing that, it's insane."
McCoy's Twitter handle, @CutonDime25, is a not-so-humble reference to his ability to change direction and leave defenders with armfuls of nothing. He wasn't able to make the really sharp moves, but then, the Lions' defenders were hampered at least as much.
"To be honest, it was definitely tough," McCoy said. "You just didn't have the normal footing and traction that you get when stopping and cutting. Sometimes I couldn't really plant. I can usually plant on a dime, but it all worked out. The guys were giving me so much room.
"I feel like it is a mental thing. Obviously, it's going to be tough because of the snow and weather, but you don't think about it when you're running."
The Eagles had minus-2 yards of total offense in the first quarter. They weren't much better in the second and were trailing 8-0 at halftime. After Detroit's Jeremy Ross returned a punt 58 yards for a third-quarter touchdown, it was 14-0 and the game seemed out of reach. That's how extreme the conditions were and how poorly the Eagles seemed to be handling them.
But quarterback Nick Foles threw two passes -- a 44-yarder that Riley Cooper caught while rolling through the snow like a sled and a 19-yard touchdown to Jackson -- to make it 14-6 (there was no kicking game in this one).
"I think we took some shots deep, which kind of set [the Lions] back a little bit," McCoy said. "The guys up front gave me opportunities one-on-one by blowing those guys off the ball. I just felt with how well the line was blocking today, we would gash them once Nick started throwing the ball."
"We just kind of kept poking and prodding and then we started to move the ball," Kelly said. "When we got in here at halftime, I thought our offensive staff did a good job of putting together some formations of how to run some things and what we could come back with."
Center Jason Kelce said Kelly's scheme was designed "to attack the explosion out of [their defense]. Those guys rely on such explosion, and I think that slowed them down a bit. I think as we got the game going, we realized the snow was taking them out of their game, in terms of the defensive ends being able to rush up the field quickly. We just had some success moving the ball vertically and the coaches picked up on that."
Vertically. Downhill. North and south. Whatever you call it, McCoy was suddenly unstoppable. He broke a 40-yard run to tie the game. After Ross took the kickoff back 98 yards for a second touchdown return, the Eagles came back with the same offensive approach.
"We just weren't firing off the ball," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. "We really had to slow it up and let the Lions linebackers overrun their gaps. Then we just sealed off and Shady [McCoy] hit them on the back side for long runs."
McCoy broke a 57-yarder to give the Eagles the lead for good 22-20. Chris Polk ran 38 yards for another fourth-quarter touchdown. Foles took one in from the 1-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, McCoy broke Steve Van Buren's 64-year-old franchise record of 205 rushing yards in a game.
It was a win that gave the Eagles an 8-5 record, doubling their win total from last season. It kept pressure on the Dallas Cowboys, who have to beat the Bears in Chicago to keep pace in the NFC East race. Mostly, it was a comeback win in adverse conditions that represented another step in the growth of this team in Kelly's first season.
"I don't think this group gives up," Kelly said. "I think they've got way too much invested, and I think the more you have invested in something, it's a lot more difficult to quit."
With three games left, as Bode Miller might have said, it's all downhill from here.