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Bills need to make McCoy's production 'mean something'

There have been so many big runs, so many jukes and head fakes that have left defenders grasping at air. There has been so much production that has firmly established LeSean McCoy as the lone consistently elite player on the Buffalo Bills' roster.

And for what?

The Bills are 6-6 and must win all of their remaining four games to have any shot at reaching the playoffs.

Otherwise, McCoy's 949 rushing yards, which rank sixth in the NFL, will go to waste. So will his 5.5 yards-per-carry average, better than that of any of the five backs ranked ahead of him. So will his nine touchdown runs, which are fifth-most in the league.

"Obviously, he's having a historic season, one of his better ever," fullback Jerome Felton said Wednesday. "So I think it's important for us to make it mean something."

"You want to make those" big runs by McCoy "count," said guard Richie Incognito. "But we haven't been able to score enough points to complement those big running games. It's one of those things where we're really lighting it up in the run game; we've just got to get everything else to come along with it."

Last Sunday in Oakland, the Bills wasted one of the best performances of McCoy's nearly eight-year career.

He ran for 130 yards on 17 carries, an average of 7.6 yards per attempt. McCoy also caught seven passes for 61 yards, virtually putting the team on his back. And the result was the Bills blowing a 15-point lead and allowing 29 unanswered points to suffer one of their most bitter losses in a long time, 38-24.

"It was real tough, because you win games like that," McCoy said. "I've never been around a game where we kind of dominated the whole game, for most of the game, and for it to unfold like that, that's real tough to kind of digest. If you didn't watch the game, you wouldn't know what I was talking about. We kind of did whatever we wanted, as far as offense.

"We just, at the end, didn't put it together."

But you won't hear the running back complain publicly that his teammates are letting him down. In fact, he does quite the opposite.

He points to himself.

"There were different plays that I missed," McCoy said. "I think we needed a spark that I didn't provide. There were some plays that I wish I had back. I can think of two, for sure, last week. ... I made the wrong cut trying to make something happen when the offense was stalled out and I could have put in a nice chunk. There’s always room for improvement."

The fact is, however, McCoy gave everything he had -- and then some -- last Sunday. The same couldn't be said for the Bills' pathetic passing game or a defense that collapsed or special teams that repeatedly gave the Raiders good field position or some of the shaky coaching that took place on both sides of the ball.

One of the biggest sparks that came from McCoy was his 54-yard run at the start of the third quarter that set up Tyrod Taylor's 12-yard touchdown run to give the Bills a 17-9 lead. It was reminiscent of the 75-yard touchdown jaunt McCoy had at the start of the third quarter of the previous week's win against Jacksonville.

That play ignited the strong second half the Bills needed to overcome a poor first half against a two-win opponent.

McCoy is 28, which is old for a running back, but he's showing tremendous ability to elude tacklers and shake free in the open field for long gains. He hasn't been utilized all that much as a receiver, with only 35 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown, yet he clearly has the capacity to make an impact that way as well.

"What's really so special about him this year is he's putting up such gaudy numbers, but he's not doing it on over 20 attempts," Incognito said. "I think he averages like 16 attempts a game (actually 15.8). We just feel he's so special, we get our blocks and we know he's going to make some people miss and really hit a home run."

McCoy seemingly couldn't do a whole lot more to help the Bills end their 16-year postseason drought, yet what he has done hasn't been enough.

That's largely because the Bills, who have the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack, rank dead-last in the league in passing and haven't been able to hold up defensively against the best quarterbacks on their schedule -- and a couple who don't fall into that category.

"It's not a wasted season," coach Rex Ryan said of McCoy's efforts. "There's a reason we're still in this, and he's a big reason why."

Some would argue he's the only reason.

It is a significant difference from last year, his first with the Bills after being traded from the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite being the only player on the team voted to the Pro Bowl, McCoy was frustrated with his 895-yard season because he was forced to miss four games with injuries and never felt he could get into any sort of groove.

Questions were raised about whether he could remain healthy for a full season and provide the type of production expected from a player the Bills paid $16 million in 2015 after reworking his contract.

McCoy raised even more questions about himself when he was involved in a nightclub brawl in Philadelphia last February that sent two off-duty police officers to the hospital and resulted in investigations by the Philadelphia district attorney's office and the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. No charges were filed, but McCoy acknowledged that he shouldn't have put himself in such a bad situation in the first place.

His performance in 11 games -- he sat out the Bills' Oct. 30 loss against New England with a hamstring injury -- has served to help erase much of the negativity stemming from the incident and his unspectacular first season in Buffalo.

"With LeSean, he does feed off of people doubting him," Felton said. "Obviously, from last year, being a little bit banged up and everybody saying, 'Oh, well, does he still have it? Has he lost a step? He's getting a little older.' Those are things that he hears and feeds off of and that is one of the biggest drives for him, just kind of overcoming and proving people wrong.

"I think he kind of had that mentality going into the offseason and carried it throughout the offseason and training camp. And, obviously, you see it paying off now."

Besides the hamstring injury, McCoy also has dealt with an injured thumb. Entering Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he says he is feeling fine, handling the wear and tear of a long season better than last year.

"The only thing I can do right now is continue to play well and hopefully we get a chance in the playoffs," he said. "You never second-guess the effort. I’ve been playing this game since I was five years old. I’ve got a nose to compete no matter" whether we "win or lose.

"I’m doing my best to win."

Too bad that can't always be said for some of his teammates.

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