PHILADELPHIA – On Saturday night, ESPN aired a moving two-hour documentary on the Bills’ four Super Bowl losses, titled “Four Falls of Buffalo.” If you haven’t seen it yet, make a point to do so.
Bills fans all over the world, and sports lovers in general, had to be in tears watching that film. Its message, brought home most eloquently by Scott Norwood and Jim Kelly, was that an athlete and a city can dignify themselves in defeat, and that it’s how you handle loss that defines you as a man.
Someone should sit down LeSean McCoy and make him watch it. The man known as “Shady” might learn a thing or two about showing class in defeat. One day after the old Bills were ennobled in posterity, McCoy disgraced the current team with his sullen, petulant act after a 23-20 loss.
McCoy had waited nine months to get back at his old coach, Chip Kelly, for trading him to Buffalo. On the day he was introduced in Buffalo, he told his high school coach he couldn’t wait for a chance to return to Philly, so he could make Kelly rue the day he ever shipped him away.
A few minutes before Sunday’s game, McCoy walked out to the middle of Lincoln Financial Field, knelt down and kissed the big Eagle’s head logo that stretches between the two 43-yard lines.
A few hours later, the Bills were kissing their playoff hopes goodbye, and McCoy was the first player to exit the field.
McCoy didn’t stop to greet any of his former teammates, or congratulate them on a win that kept them in first place in the NFC East. This is typical of Shady, a notorious poor loser. He bolted off to the visiting locker room, slamming his helmet against the concrete wall on his way up the tunnel.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox, who had a dominant performance and got pushed by McCoy after one play. “I didn’t see him run off the field. I was over celebrating with my teammates. It was awesome and we enjoyed it.”
McCoy wasn’t lacking for commentary on Wednesday, twice spitting out curses when discussing his fractured relationship with Kelly. So what did McCoy have to say about this loss, which dropped the Bills to 6-7 and effectively eliminated them from the wild-card race?
It was actually worse than nothing. When McCoy arrived at his locker, there were at least two dozen reporters surrounding his stall, most of them from the Pennsylvania he loves so dearly. He sat down, looked up at the cameras and notebooks, and shook his head derisively.
“You going to watch me dress?” he said. “Give me some space.”
McCoy then turned his back and went through the slow, self-conscious routine of putting on his clothes. After about five minutes, he put on his watch and his gold necklace, pulled on his sports coat and turned to face the gathering.
“I got nothing to say,” McCoy said, walking away. “Excuse me.”
He seemed to take pleasure in keeping reporters waiting, then blowing them off. I know people don’t care about the media’s problems. But would it have been so difficult to tell the Bills’ PR staff he didn’t intend to speak, so working media could make better use of their time?
Maybe McCoy didn’t want to explain how he was held to a pedestrian 74 yards rushing on 20 carries, his lowest output since London, against the Eagles’ 27th-ranked run defense. Or how he managed to run eight times for an embarrassing 11 yards in the decisive second half.
Of course, McCoy might also have been quizzed about a Bills team that committed 15 penalties in their latest “must-win” game, including three on his offensive linemen (plus another that was declined) in the fourth quarter alone.
Heaven knows, some wise guy might have asked if it might have been a better idea to give more touches to the estimable Mike Gillislee, who broke one of his three carries for a 19-yard TD.
Maybe McCoy realized that the buildup to this game had been too much about him, and not enough about a 6-6 team that was desperate to keep its slim wild-card hopes alive.
“I think LeSean is an emotional guy, and we were all hyped up,” said guard Richie Incognito, who had two critical penalties in the fourth quarter and said he was “man enough” to admit he didn’t play well.
“We wanted to win the game for him,” Incognito said, “but I do not think that emotions played a part in the game.”
That may be so. The Bills have struggled to find their emotional equilibrium for much of this season. In many ways, this loss was a negative blueprint of their losses. Penalties, dumb mistakes, overaggression, bad special teams play, missed assignments on defense, Tyrod Taylor misfiring on throws when it mattered the most.
As Rex Ryan said a couple of weeks ago, the Bills are capable of losing to anybody. Apparently, it was no advantage to go into a game that had such profound emotional weight for one of their star players. Four false starts and four offsides penalties suggest a team that was overwrought and overeager.
The Eagles had been a team in crisis. They had been crushed by the Bucs and Lions, giving up 45 points in consecutive weeks, before shocking New England on the road last week. I underestimated them. Or more to the point, I overestimated an average Bills team that has been a sloppy, undisciplined mess for much of the season.
Of course, Ryan will generally defend his guys and point the finger of blame elsewhere. He and Dennis Thurman, his defensive coordinator, were berating the officials on their way off the field. A video appears to show Thurman calling the refs a disgrace as he exits. Ryan thought McCoy did a laudable job in his Philly return.
“I think he was very professional in the way he handled everything,” Ryan said. “The guy just wants to win in the worst way, regardless of who you play.”
The true disgrace happened moments later, when McCoy’s mouth went silent, putting a regrettable end to an afternoon when Shady got pretty well undressed.