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LeSean McCoy overcomes scare, leads Bills' stampede over 49ers

LeSean McCoy was finishing a text as he approached the lectern in the interview room at New Era Field after the Buffalo Bills' 45-16 pounding of the San Francisco 49ers Sunday.

"That was my mom asking about my knee," the Bills' running back told the crowd of reporters.

And what did McCoy tell her?

"That it was all right," he said. "It took me a couple carries to get it feeling good again."

But between the moment McCoy went to the ground with 32 seconds left in the first half – holding his right knee because of a low hit he took while trying to make a cut after a pass reception – and returned to the field, there was panic on the Bills' sidelines, throughout the 70,000-plus fans in attendance and Buffalo loyalists watching and listening everywhere.

McCoy isn't just a player on the Bills. He is their franchise player. He is, arguably, the best player at any position in the NFL.

At the time of his injury, McCoy had become the first running back in the league to rush for 100 yards in the first half of consecutive games since Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill did in 2014. McCoy also had run for a pair of touchdowns to help the Bills to a 17-13 halftime lead.

Guard Richie Incognito said his "heart dropped a little bit" at the sight of McCoy looking as if he had suffered a major injury. Coach Rex Ryan didn't want to repeat what he was thinking.

"I mean, I think I had the same concerns and everything else that every single Buffalo Bills fan had and everybody that lives here in Western New York," Ryan said. "So, obviously, we had to hold our breath. But he's tough and he bounced back."

"I guess, instead of hitting me up top, he wanted to chop me down," McCoy said of 49ers linebacker Nick Bellore. "My knee was stuck in the turf and it shifted a little bit, but it was fine. ... It could have been something bad, but I feel fine. There were a few plays running on it where it was feeling kind of gimpy, but as the game got on, the adrenaline was pumping, I was fine."

McCoy proved as much by adding a third touchdown run, something he last did in 2011 with the Philadelphia Eagles, and celebrated by handing the ball to Incognito to spike. "I spiked the (bleep) out of it," the guard said.

McCoy's 19-carry, 140-yard performance fueled the Bills' fourth win in a row, their first such streak since 2008. In all, the Bills ran for 312 yards, their best day on the ground since 1992 (yep, the Super Bowl era) against Atlanta.

The signature moment came when they faced a third-and-20 with 3:10 left in the first half. As center Eric Wood pointed out, the goal was to "just to create a little more space for a punt" on the draw play that was called.

But McCoy wanted much more. He first cut to his left, then veered to his right and picked up 22 yards along the San Francisco sideline before running out of bounds and spiking the ball in front of the 49ers' bench.

"He's probably one of the only backs in the league that can make a run like that," guard John Miller said.

For McCoy, it was a spectacular encore to the 150-yard day he had at Los Angeles the previous week and another indication of how special he can be on a regular basis when he's healthy and has his mind right. A year ago, he dealt with injuries and the shock/anger/depression over being traded from the Philadelphia Eagles, and received what he readily admitted was an undeserved Pro Bowl selection.

It was hardly a coincidence that the man who made the trade, Chip Kelly, is now coaching the Niners. McCoy insisted he's "past that ... everything's Buffalo." But that spike he made in front of the 49er bench suggested otherwise.

McCoy also demonstrated for the second week in a row what an exceptionally talented running back, playing behind an outstanding offensive line, can do against a weakened or weaker defensive front. The Rams were missing three of four starting defensive linemen. The Niners just do a bad job of stopping the run.

"I think they were 31st in the league against the run, so we thought we were going to have a chance to be successful running the football, obviously," Ryan said. "And we did have a great plan. (Offensive coordinator) Anthony (Lynn), (offensive line coach Aaron) Kromer, all those guys did a great job of putting a plan together. And then our players went out and did a great job of executing, more importantly."

McCoy spent plenty of time during the week studying video of the 49ers' defense. It was clear to him that there were going to be opportunities to run in wide open spaces.

"The breakdown on the team is they're an athletic, tall group," McCoy said. "They tend to get tired, and there's been tons of tape on guys getting to the open field."

But as he was quick to mention, he didn't do it alone.

"If you want to give any game balls out, you need to give it to the offensive line," McCoy said. "They whooped them up and down the field. I mean, they made my job real easy."

The Bills' offensive line repeatedly made room with a power-oriented scheme that called for down blocks, driving defensive linemen in the direction of the center, and pulling.

"It's funny, because you wouldn't think of him as a power back, but a lot of his big runs come on power-scheme plays, which he didn't run in Philly and he's kind of adjusted to here because we're good at blocking them," Wood said. "We have great guards who can pull."

How much fun is it to block for McCoy?

"It's awesome, because the one time you don't make a block, he's one-on-one with a linebacker, he's going to make him miss," Miller said. "He's very athletic, shifty, can make a cut on a dime. So it's very special to play with a guy like that."

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