LeSEAN McCOY says it's all about winning football games, not rushing titles. Says individual goals and achievements rank a distant second to getting a W.
He's being truthful. But that doesn't mean he's not as frustrated as hell at the way his sixth NFL season is going.
This is a man who ran away with the league rushing title last year; a man who, deep down in his heart, thought a 2,000-yard season was very doable this year.
While the Eagles are 7-2, McCoy is averaging just 71.2 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry.
Three times already, including Monday night's 45-21 win over Carolina, McCoy has been held to less than 25 rushing yards. That's one more time than the previous four seasons combined.
"We're winning games, and we're being a successful team," McCoy said. "That's all that really matters at the end of the day. Sure, I'd like it to be different. But the main focus is winning."
They're winning football games for now. But they're not going to go very far in the playoffs without more production from McCoy and the rest of the running game.
With all due respect to Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles, if you think either one of them is capable of putting this team on their back in January and lugging it to Arizona without a significant contribution from McCoy, well, you're nuts.
While they were able to beat the Panthers with just 19 yards on 12 carries from McCoy, they won't beat the Packers Sunday without more, much more, from him.
But there is reason for hope. McCoy has had just two 100-yard rushing performances this season, including a 149-yard game in the Eagles' 27-0, Week 6 win over the Giants.
Most of the defenses the Eagles have faced have made stopping McCoy their first, second and third priorities. They have stacked the box and stayed in their base defense, even when the Eagles have gone to three-wide receiver sets.
The one notable exception was the Giants, who played nickel almost the entire game, even against two-tight end sets. You saw what happened in that game.
Chip Kelly's offense is all about creating favorable matchups. He'll spread you out with three-wide receiver sets, get you to bring in your nickel personnel, then gash your lighter lineup with the run. Or he'll trot out "12" personnel (two tight ends), get you to play base and then make safeties and linebackers try to cover Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz in space.
When he won the rushing title last season, three-quarters of McCoy's rushing yards came out of three-wide receiver formations.
The Packers, like the Giants, don't play much base defense. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has used his base package only about 20 percent of the time in the first nine games. The Packers have played nickel (five defensive backs) about 65 percent of the time and dime (six defensive backs) 15 percent.
They've only given up 13 touchdown passes and have 12 interceptions, but are 30th against the run. Capers stopped the bleeding with his run defense, at least temporarily, last week against Chicago by moving his Pro Bowl outside linebacker, Clay Matthews, inside.
The Packers, who had given up 193 rushing yards in a loss to the Saints the previous game, held the Bears to 55 yards on 24 carries.
Even with Matthews in the middle, the Packers still played very little base defense. They were in nickel or dime almost the entire game. Probably will be again against the Eagles.
"Then again," McCoy said, "every team shows something on tape and then plays us differently. So we'll have to see Sunday how that works out for us."
Center Jason Kelce said it's not quite as simple as getting a defense to play nickel.
"Nickel is just personnel," he said. "They could stay in nickel and still get to some fronts and some alignments that would make it very difficult to run as well. Even though it's less [big] people, they're still packing the box and putting a lot of guys between the two tackles. That said, I still think, in general, nickel usually is easier to run against."
Bill Davis is looking forward to Sunday's game against the Packers for a couple of reasons. The first is he wants to see how his defense measures up against one of the league's best quarterbacks and best offenses.
The second is it gives the Eagles defensive coordinator an opportunity to get together with the man who has helped shape his coaching career: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
"The first 7 years of my career were with Dom," the 49-year-old Davis said. "He raised me. He gave me my first opportunity in the NFL."
Capers was Bill Cowher's defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh in 1992 when Davis was hired by the Steelers as a defensive quality control assistant.
"My first day was the first day of training camp," said Davis, who played quarterback and wide receiver at the University of Cincinnati. "I was 22 years old. I was all offensive coach before that. I had never been exposed to the defensive side. But that's what Bill Cowher needed. Someone to work with Dom."
Davis spent 3 years on Cowher's staff. He impressed Capers enough that when Capers was hired as the head coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers in '95, he brought Davis along to coach his outside linebackers.
"There are four teams right now that are working out of that Steeler [defensive] playbook that we put together," Davis said. "Washington because [defensive coordinator Jim] Haslett was in Pittsburgh. The Tennessee Titans because [defensive coordinator] Ray Horton was in Pittsburgh. And us and the Packers.
"Everybody adds their own flavor to it. And part of the flavor that changes, like here, is your position coaches also have influence on, you know, what tools [you use], and then your talent and where you're strong and where you're weak. The playbooks all start off the same, but then they kind of branch off."
Davis sees his former mentor at the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine in Indianapolis and Pro Day workouts and when their teams play each other. Not many phone conversations, though.
"He's not a phone guy and neither am I," Davis said. "But it's going to be great to see him Sunday. He had a huge impact on my coaching career. The first 7 years were all Dom."
It will be an even better trip if his defense can hold its own against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' explosive offense.
"I need to know [how we measure up]," Davis said. "You need to know. So let's go. [Rodgers] has got to deal with us too. It goes both ways. You can't go into any situation scared. We have a ton of respect for him. But at the same time, we're OK. Let's go."
Aaron Rodgers leads the league in passing with a 120.1 rating. He also leads the league in third-down passing (124.1). Since becoming the Packers' starting quarterback in '08, he has a 111.5 third-down passer rating. He's thrown 71 touchdown passes and just 17 interceptions on third down over that period, and has a 63.3 completion percentage. A breakdown of Rodgers' third-down passing:
C-A Yds. TD/I Sk. Downs
3rd & 10+. . . 12-19 287 3/0 6 8
3rd & 7-9. . . 8-10 98 2/0 3 6
3rd & 4-6. . . 12-24 140 1/1 0 12
3rd & 1-3. . . 8-13 80 4/0 1 8
Total. . . 40-66 605 10/1 10 4
* The Eagles currently are 18th in the league in third-down pass defense with a 91.3 passer rating. They have a 55.4 opponent completion percentage on third down, have allowed 8.54 yards per attempt and six touchdowns and have intercepted three passes. The five best (and worst) third-down pass defenses through the first 10 weeks of the season:
Pct. /Att. TD Int. Rat.
1. ARI. . . 51.6 6.55 2 5 57.4
2. BUF. . . 58.1 5.81 3 5 62.2
3, DET. . . 54.9 6.49 2 4 62.7
4. IND. . . 50.6 6.53 1 2 65.0
5. DEN. . . 56.1 6.31 5 6 67.3
28. TB. . . 68.2 9.30 9 3 117.5
29. SD. . . 61.5 9.38 8 1 121.3
30. CHI. . . 66.7 9.50 10 2 126.9
31. NYJ. . . 64.6 8.80 12 0 132.2
32. OAK. . . 72.5 8.00 10 0 132.5
* Jordan Matthews has been the Eagles' most productive red-zone receiver. He has seven receptions inside the 20, five for touchdowns. Just seven players have more red-zone TD catches than the rookie - Julius Thomas (9), Randall Cobb (8), Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski (7), and Mike Wallace, Ahmad Bradshaw and Jimmy Graham (6).
* Just seven of Jeremy Maclin's team-high 49 receptions have come on third down. Three Eagles have more third-down catches. Matthews and Zach Ertz each have 15 and Darren Sproles has eight.
* The Eagles have had 137 third-down plays of 3 yards or more this season. Just 15 of those 137 plays have been run plays.
* The Eagles have given up a league-high 18 pass plays of 30 yards or more. Last year, they gave up 22 the entire season.
-- "Hell, yeah. It's for the No.1 seed in the NFC, this week. Just this week, now. [But] it's big. If we get there [to the playoffs], that's a long way off. But hell, yeah, it does."
— Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, when asked whether he is thinking about playoff implications and the No. 1 conference playoff seed going into Sunday's game against 7-2 Detroit
-- "No, we don't even talk about playoffs or anything of that nature. That's something that's earned. We haven't earned it yet."
— Lions coach Jim Caldwell, when asked the same question Arians was asked
-- "I know it's been pushed and pushed and pushed, and everyone thinks [the rumors of locker-room division are] from the inside out. But we're strong in that locker room. We feel like we can't let any of these reports or anything divide us. Right now, we have to be responsible for what we do. Right now, we're 3-6, and I think everybody in this room knows it. We have a hunger to win."
— Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
"The ball goes perfectly straight, doesn't move. Every kick is right on the money. You have to try and block it. If you wait for him to miss, you'll be waiting all day. Right now, I don't think anybody is kicking better than he is."
— Patriots coach Bill Belichick, on 41-year-old Colts PK Adam Vinatieri, who is 20-for-20 on FGs this season
BY THE NUMBERS
-- At 8-1, the Cardinals have the best record in the NFL. It's the first time the franchise has had the best record after nine games since 1966.
-- Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has rushed for 100 yards three times this season. The only other QB in the Super Bowl era to do that is Michael Vick, who did it twice, in 2004 and again in 2006. Former Eagle Randall Cunningham rushed for 4,928 yards, but only had three 100-yard rushing games in his career.
-- The Eagles-Packers game is one of four matchups this week between teams with .667 or better winning percentages. It's the first time that has ever happened this late in the season.
-- Broncos tight end Julius Thomas leads the NFL with 12 touchdown catches. He's the first tight end in NFL history to notch back-to-back 12-TD seasons.
-- Peyton Manning has thrown multiple touchdown passes in 15 straight games, an NFL record.
THIS AND THAT
-- The Packers are 29-3 at Lambeau Field since 2010 in games that Aaron Rodgers has started. While it's hardly the only reason Rodgers is so good at Lambeau, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin thinks Rodgers benefits immensely from the ability to use his hard count at home. "Aaron Rodgers has a great hard count, which you don't get any of that on the road," Barwin said. "He'll get that the whole game Sunday because the crowd will be quiet and we'll be able to hear every call he makes. So that really slows down your pass rush. On the road, a pass rush can get off on a silent count." The Eagles' defense spent most of yesterday's practice — or "training session" as Chip Kelly prefers to call them — preparing for Rodgers' cadence and hard count. "That's all we did today," Bill Davis said. "Worked the hard count. Every period. Because he does it great. The stands will be silent \[before the snap\]. The Lambeau fans, the Green Bay fans, are so knowledgeable, they yell at each other if somebody makes a noise when the offense is out there." The Eagles have been flagged 10 times this season for defensive offsides (2), encroachment (3) and neutral-zone infraction (5). Three of those penalties have been on linebacker Trent Cole. "You've got to watch out for his cadence because he's pretty good at it," Cole said. "You've got to be careful not to jump offsides. With him, you've got to focus on the snap of the ball."
-- Aaron Rodgers doesn't get enough credit for his mobility. He is as good as anybody at extending plays and picking up first downs with his legs. He has averaged 4.8 yards per carry during his career and is averaging a career-best 5.9 yards per carry this season. Just six QBs with at least 15 rushing attempts are averaging more: Russell Wilson (7.6), Ryan Tannehill (7.4), Mike Vick (6.2), Alex Smith (6.0), Blake Bortles (6.0) and Jake Locker (5.9). "The guy can run," Trent Cole said. "He don't look like the type of guy who can run. He don't look nothing like a runner. But when he runs, he runs. He's deceiving. He's not deceiving me. But somebody who's never gone up against him before, whoa. When he gets out of that pocket, he can run." Said Connor Barwin, who has a team-high 10 1/2 sacks: "People talk about Cam [Newton] and his running ability. But Aaron Rodgers can run around and elude a pass rush as good as anybody in the league. So we'll have to be disciplined in what we do. And when we get back there, we're going to have to make sure we get him down."
-- Zach Ertz's playing time and production both continue to drop. After playing 64.5 percent of the offensive snaps in the Eagles' first four games, the second-year tight end has played just 43.0 percent of them in the last five games. In the last two games, he's been targeted just five times and has two catches for 21 yards. This was supposed to be Ertz's breakout year, and who knows, it still may be. He is tied for the team lead in third-down receptions (15) and is averaging 14.4 yards per catch. But the Eagles' struggles running the ball have prompted Chip Kelly to sacrifice Ertz's pass-catching skills for a better blocking tight end \[Brent Celek\]. "Each week I prepare like I'm going to play every snap," Ertz said. "But obviously, it hasn't worked out that way the past couple of weeks. But if my number gets called, I'll be ready. Last week, I felt I played a great game. The stat sheet didn't say it, but I made all my blocks in the run game. In the passing game, I was open a lot. If I'm the second read and the first read is open and I'm open, then I'm not going to get the ball. So it doesn't show up in the stat sheet." Ertz is working hard to improve his blocking. He's not a bad blocker, but he's not at Celek's level. "Brent's probably the best blocking tight end in the league," he said. "So it's hard to overcome someone who's established like that. But if my number gets called, I'll be ready. Whether it's this year or whenever it may be, I'll be ready."