Each time the Eagles do this, each time they find a jewel of a game amid a junkyard of a season, the opportunities they have wasted become all the more frustrating.

There were two reasons that the Eagles were able to dismantle a New York Jets team that thought it was pretty good by a 45-19 score on Sunday. The first reason was the Jets, who were plain awful, but the second was what the Eagles did to grab the game by the throat.

It wasn't a perfect game, by any means. The Eagles could have put the thing away by halftime, but committed four turnovers in the first half alone. They were the beneficiaries of New York turnovers that were more the result of Jets' mistakes than their own aggression.

But despite that, they were still able to accomplish against the Jets the only thing that really matters: They won. If they had played through similar inconsistencies in some of those other imperfect games this season - Atlanta, San Francisco, Buffalo, Arizona, Seattle, to name more than a few - then the Eagles wouldn't be in their current position of needing stars to align and then a lunar eclipse just to qualify for the postseason.

"Hmm, that sounds like a lot," said running back LeSean McCoy, when told exactly what must happen for the Eagles to win the NFC East, their only remaining playoff option. "But we're still alive and we'll have to win this last couple of games just to have a shot."

That is where they are, by their own hand, and there is no better example of what has been wasted this season than the play of McCoy, who still hasn't been used properly.

When a team has that kind of talent at its disposal, combined with the Eagles' passing game, it seems logical to design a balanced offense that can pick apart a defense no matter how it tries to stop you. When you have a quarterback who is injury prone - particularly when the offense is pass-happy - then you take some pressure off and negate some of the danger with dedication to running the ball.

The Eagles, among their other failings, didn't do that this season. They lost games because they couldn't control the clock and protect leads, and they lost their quarterback with cracked ribs for three games and he suffered a concussion in another.

Other than that, their use of McCoy and the running game was faultless.

Against the Jets, McCoy ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns. New York coach Rex Ryan, describing McCoy before the game, says he makes every run look like a punt return, and that's what he did against the Jets, juking and moving and adding yards to nearly every carry.

McCoy, even in this wasted season, has gained 1,274 yards and needs just 239 more in the final two games to break Wilbert Montgomery's single-season franchise record of 1,512 yards. His scores against the Jets give him 20 overall touchdowns and 17 rushing touchdowns for the season. Both marks break ancient records set by Steve Van Buren in 1945 (in a 10-game season).

"I guess nobody else could do it," McCoy said, with a laugh.

It's been a great statistical year for McCoy, but imagine what it might have been, and what the Eagles might have been with him to help chew up time and keep the defense from flagging at the ends of games.

"We can't dwell on the past," McCoy said. "I know that each week we have a shot to be a great offense. We've got some of the best athletes in the league and so many weapons. It's confused me sometimes the situations we've had, with the turnovers and things."

"Confusing" is a pretty good description of the season, because it has never been really clear if the Eagles have been a bad team playing up to its capability, or a good team playing poorly.

As for McCoy, though, his ability has been on display all season. There were games in which he didn't get opportunities, and games in which the offensive line didn't open holes, but he showed up every game ready to do what he did on Sunday.

"He gets better every game," tackle Jason Peters said. "He knows how to read blocks and as long as he holds onto the ball, he's going to make things happen."

McCoy lost a fumble against the Jets, just his first fumble in a season in which he has had 260 carries and 47 pass receptions. If the rest of the team was that stingy with turnovers, everything would be fine.

"He's playing well and he's staying aggressive" coach Andy Reid said. "Even that one he lost, it was because he was trying to get that extra. It's not easy playing running back in this league."

It's not always easy playing running back for the Eagles in particular. Even when they know what they have, they sometimes don't seem to know what they have. In a season of wasted opportunity, put that one on the list, too.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, and read recent columns at www.philly.com/bobford.