PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—It took some time for the living snow globe that was Lincoln Financial Field to be turned upside down and shaken a few times. And it was shaken—and then some on Sunday by LeSean “Shady” McCoy.
What started as a gloomy, wintry mess turned into a lot of fun by McCoy, who rushed for an Eagles all-time record 217 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles answered an early two-touchdown deficit with five-straight TD drives in a 34-20 Eagles’ victory in one of the most memorable Eagles’ games ever played.
The Eagles won for the fifth-straight time, improving to 8-5 and temporary hold of first place in the NFC East. The Birds helped themselves in the NFC wildcard playoff picture, as the loss dropped Detroit to 7-6.
“I think we took some shots deep that set them a little back,” McCoy said. “I mean the guys up front gave me opportunities one-on-one, blowing guys off the ball. The big guys on my team took the challenge and stepped up. The guys up front were giving me so much room to work. It’s a mental thing, I feel like. It’s obviously going to be tough because it’s the snow and weather. But you don’t think about it when you’re running. I actually played all of my football in Pennsylvania and this is the worst game I ever played in, weather wise—and the best game, too.”
No one expected the weather. No one expected McCoy to thrash the Lions, either.
“I talked about it a little earlier in the year, everyone has a plan, and then the first snap something goes wrong that kind of goes awry, so you didn’t plan on something, it’s how you react to it,” Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly said. “At times during a game, [the stuff] is going to hit the fan. You show up here this morning, our weather report was that it wasn’t going to snow until halftime. That didn’t turn out very well. I think our guys embraced it. They really enjoyed it. They had a lot of fun. They kind of went back to when they were little kids running around out there.”
The biggest kid was McCoy, with the help of the offensive front of Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis. They pounded a Detroit defense that had not allowed a rushing touchdown since Sept. 29. The Lions were the first team since 1933 to hold opponents to 62 yards or less and no rushing touchdowns in six-straight games.
That ended on Sunday in eight inches of snow that piled up on Lincoln Financial Field.
It appeared as if it would slow a cutback runner like McCoy. For the first half, it did. It made him a north-south runner, with a dash of a cut here and there that freed him up for TD runs of 40 and 57 yards.
“We just felt like coming down hill was the key to everything,” Kelly said. “We wanted to get the ball downhill. I know LeSean is a very talented back and can do some different things. This wasn’t a day where you were going to get the perimeter. If you start going east and west, you’re going to continue going east and west. You couldn’t stick your foot in the ground and make that hard cut, which is what you want to try to do when you run those flat plays.”
McCoy finished with 217 yards on 29 carries. He broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a dingle game formerly held by Hall of Famer Steve Buren, who previously owned the record of 205 yards on Nov. 27, 1949 in a 34-17 Eagles’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Against the Lions in the first half, it was hard to decipher which team was the “dome team” and which team wasn’t.
There were no snow angels. Players used their shoes as shovels to try and get some firm footing. It was difficult to watch, if you were an Eagles’ fan. It was difficult to play. It was difficult to accept, especially after how the Eagles had been playing the last month.
The Eagles squeezed out minus-2 yards of total yards in the first quarter. They had 90 yards by halftime, six first downs and averaged 3.2 yards a play.
With 4:47 left in the third quarter, that all seemed to change when Riley Cooper somehow found a 44-yard reception among the falling snowflakes falling in his face. That started everything. On the following play, Nick Foles hit DeSean Jackson for a 19-yard score in the back of the end zone.
It changed the flow of the game.
“That [Cooper] play was a big play, a really tough catch,” Kelly said. “That was almost a little confidence we could get some throws off. It’s funny, because Cary Williams was the one who came up to me and made a great point, ‘Coach, this what you gotta do, because you can’t make up speed if the guy makes a stick move on you because of the footing.’ That was a defensive guy who was saying if you have the opportunity to throw a post or a corner route, it’s hard to make up. When we hit Riley on it, that got us going. That got our confidence back a little bit and we got rolling there.”
The Eagles finished with 487 yards of total offense, 388 yards coming in the second half, and averaged seven yards a play. The Birds went from picking up 3.2 yards a play in the first half to 9.7 yards, nearly 10 yards a play, in the second half. They pounded Detroit for 299 yards rushing on 46 carries, ripping through the NFL’s third-best run defense for 6.5 yards a carry.
The Eagles scored 28 points in the fourth quarter. The Eagles hadn’t scored in the final quarter in their previous four games. Their last fourth-quarter TD came on special teams when the Eagles recovered a botched punt snap against the Giants on Oct. 27.
It’s the last time the Eagles had lost. They were sitting at 3-5 then and seemingly no light in their immediate future.
They showed their revolve in responding with a five-game winning streak—and proved that again in coming back against the Lions.
“I don’t think this group gives up, they have too much invested,” Kelly said. “It’s an extremely hard-working group that has a lot invested. They understand it’s a long game. You can’t get discouraged when you’re not successful early, because in this league, there are so many good players on the other teams that it’s always going to be a battle. They just know if we keep hanging in there, and just keep fighting and just keep banging away, good things are going to happen for us.”
They did in a game that everyone won’t soon forget.