Jerry Sullivan: Bills need a typical Shady Show on Thursday - The Buffalo News

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Jerry Sullivan: Bills need a typical Shady Show on Thursday

Thursday night games are a brutal but necessary burden for most NFL players. They're subjected to a fearful physical pounding on Sundays, then they have to go back out four days later for another game.

Naturally, LeSean McCoy had 33 touches in Sunday's win over the Raiders, the most of his nine-year career and the first time he's touched it 30 times in a game with the Bills. Now, he's required to play again on Thursday at the Jets. He could surely use a little more rest.

"Yeah. I would love to have a full week," McCoy said Tuesday afternoon in the fieldhouse. "But it is what it is. We've got to go out there and get it done. I'm sore, but I'll be fine on Thursday."

The truth is, McCoy loves Thursdays. The record shows it. Two of the top five rushing days of his career came on Thursdays, including a 159-yard gem on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas during the 2014 season with the Eagles.

McCoy also had a huge game two years ago on Thursday night, when he rushed for 112 yards against the Jets in Rex Ryan's triumphant return to New York. The Bills had the best rushing day of any team that year against the Jets, who finished second in the league against the run.

In six career Thursday games, McCoy has 616 yards rushing, 223 yards receiving and six touchdowns. He averages 140 total yards in those games, compared with 102 combined yards in his career. So what is it about Thursdays?

"It's just a normal game," he began ... Come on, Shady.

"The cool thing about it," he said, "is everybody's watching a national game. Any time you can have a chance to perform on that stage, you want to do your best."

So you do get personally motivated by the national spotlight, knowing it's the only show in town and everyone around the league is watching?

"I think so," he said. "I think we actually wear our best uniforms. You try to put different tape on and different colors that stand out. So it's something you get up for."

He'll need to be at his Thursday best at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets look to avenge a 21-12 loss in the opener at New Era Field. The Bills rushed for 190 yards that day. McCoy had 110 on 22 carries, looking like the man who ran for 1,267 yards and a league-leading 5.4 per carry in 2016.

Matchup Winners: Bills beat Jets in the trenches

Then the running game stalled, averaging 86 yards as the Bills split the next four games. McCoy averaged a miserable 2.6 a carry. He went three games without so much as a 10-yard run. You wondered if the running attack that had led the league in total yards and average rush two years in a row was gone for good.

But over the bye, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison tweaked his scheme, mixing in some of the team's favorite gap-scheme runs with zone runs, while incorporating more read option plays from quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

The offense responded with 173 yards rushing against the Bucs and 166 against the Raiders. McCoy had 91 yards against Tampa Bay, then broke out for 151 against Oakland (his second-most as a Bill), including a 48-yard TD late in the game. It was McCoy's longest run since a 54-yarder against Oakland last season.

"Last couple of weeks, we've been rolling in the run game," said McCoy, who is eighth in the NFL in rushing with 521 yards. "We got to keep that going. We have to get on 'em early, put the pressure on them. It's Thursday night, a division game. They'll be up for it."

The Jets defense hasn't been up for much lately. They're 26th in yards allowed and, despite their vaunted defensive line, 27th against the run. As McCoy suggested, the Bills need to establish the run early. They can't afford to struggle the way they did in road losses at Carolina and Cincinnati.

"It kind of depends how they approach it," said center Eric Wood. "If they want to stack the box, we have to make plays in the air. It doesn't matter who you're playing. If they're going to bring the safeties down into the box, we're going to have to make some plays with our play-action and some of our vertical passing game. Hopefully, that'll lighten up the box.

"The first game, they played us a lot of two high and we were able to make some hay there," Wood said. "I wouldn't expect a ton of that."

If Tyrod Taylor can keep the safeties honest, McCoy should have one of his vintage Thursday games and continue his rise up the NFL's career rushing charts. He passed three big names last week (Marshawn Lynch, Shaun Alexander, Earl Campbell) to move into 34th with 9,475 yards.

"The Jets are going to play hard," McCoy said. "They're at home. There's so many different factors in this game. As long as we play Buffalo football – no turnovers, keep the chains moving, play physical, run the ball well, and convert on third downs – we should be fine."

Historically, "Buffalo football" meant running when the weather turned, giving them a late-season edge. We're into November. Sunday's rainy day at New Era was a good day to pound the ball. They'll be in good shape for a playoff run if they sustain the run game's recent renaissance.

"I'd love to get another 100 yards," McCoy said. "As long as we get the W, man. Not just the 100 yards. Establishing the run and getting to manageable downs. Like second-and-5, second-and-4. It makes the game a lot easier for us. we've got to control the line of scrimmage."

The Bills and Jets have the stage to themselves. The World Series will be over. It's an opportunity to show the world that something special is happening in Buffalo. The Bills don't get many of these chances, and this is when McCoy usually shines. Live from New York, it's ... Thursday Night?

"That's the thing," he said. "We don't have a lot of spotlight games. But hopefully, that'll change in the future."

McCoy's eyes brightened when he was told that he has averaged 140 yards from scrimmage on Thursdays in his NFL career.

"Oh! That is pretty good," he said. You seem to like the bright lights, I told him.

"I do like that," he said. "I might showboat a little bit."

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