It took six weeks, but LeSean McCoy finally found his way into the end zone.
It was a score he desperately needed, but also a much-needed touchdown for a Bills team engaged in a field-goal battle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throughout the opening quarter. But it was McCoy’s late-game miscue that almost helped seal the Bills' fate -- that is, until he scored for the second time this season.
With the game seemingly slipping out of reach, McCoy sliced his way up the middle, slithering through traffic, and stepped over the goal line. It was a fitting moment of redemption for a veteran back who had put so much pressure on himself to be better and who almost gave the game away.
With less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and the score tied at 20, McCoy fumbled away the football. It was only the third fumble of his three-year Bills tenure — the previous two (one on a rush, the other on a reception) coming back in 2015 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins, respectively. But as uncharacteristic a play as it was for McCoy, it was yet another mistake made by a Buffalo team still struggling to fix its offensive issues.
McCoy admittedly had grown frustrated with himself too, acknowledging that his drastic dip in production was unlike him and not at all what he had expected heading into 2017. He had never gone five games without scoring a touchdown, he said earlier this week — not in college, not in high school, not even in little league. “Never.”
And finally, he delivered.
His 1-yard TD run capped a 12-play, 78-yard scoring drive that put the Bills up 10-6 with 9:26 left in the second quarter.
McCoy was immediately mobbed by his teammates in the end zone, a familiar sight for fans accustomed to seeing the 5-9 back produce big-time plays year after year.
But this season has been decidedly different.
The Bills once owned the league’s top rushing attack. But they entered Sunday’s matchup with Tampa Bay ranked 17th (106.6 yards) in the NFL.
Sunday was personal for McCoy. Not only because his team needed him in order to secure a victory, but because he needed a big game for himself.
“I don’t know, I have to get 100 yards, man. Simple as that,” McCoy, who was averaging only 2.6 yards a carry over the past four games, told us this week.
"That’s it,” McCoy added, shaking his head. “Have to get 100 yards somewhere.”
He didn't top 100 rushing yards on Sunday, but he came close: 91.
But his 15th carry of the afternoon was the 2,000 rushing attempt of his nine-year career. McCoy is now one of five active running backs to reach that milestone, joining Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch.
But it was the play McCoy didn’t make — holding on to the football — that almost made all the difference down the stretch. The Bucs (3-3) scored a go-ahead TD with 3:14 remaining, courtesy of a 12-yard Mike Evans touchdown that capped a 10-play, 54-yard scoring drive that lasted 6:15.
But McCoy's score tied it back up at 27.
On that play, he became the 25th NFL running back with 75 touchdowns and 12,000 scrimmage yards and the third active back to do so, along with Peterson and Gore.