Last week LeSean McCoy ran for 150 yards on just 18 carries. He averaged better than eight yards per rush as he was once again the engine that drove Buffalo's offense to another victory. In typical McCoy fashion when asked about his performance in the postgame press conference he quickly referenced the plays he didn't make. Instead of talking about his 150-yard day, he was convinced with a couple of better decisions he could've done more.
"There were some plays I missed," he said last Sunday. "I could've had like 200 yards. Just small things. I get so wrapped up in trying to make too many plays. Sometimes you do things where you make it hard for yourself."
Such is the mindset of the NFL's fourth-leading rusher through the first five weeks of the 2016 season. He focuses less on his successful carries and more on the ones he feels should've gone for more yardage. Making it hard on himself might be the only way McCoy can excel in the way that he does.
That's what he did this past offseason. Following a season where his unique burst and blinding jukes were robbed from him by a preseason hamstring injury that lingered through almost the entire season before a knee injury made him unavailable for the last two games, McCoy made sure Shady would be hard on Shady. Injuries would not compromise his ability. Critics would no longer wonder at age 28 if he still had it. No one would be more demanding of McCoy than McCoy.
He undertook the most rigorous offseason training program of his pro career. McCoy's conditioning level was at an all-time high. The risk of injury would be minimized so his abilities as an NFL rusher could again be maximized.
So far, so good.
McCoy is off to the second best start to a season in his career. His 447 rushing yards through five games is only bested by his 2013 season when he had 514 yards through five games and finished with a career-high 1,607 and nine rushing touchdowns.
His current 5.3 yards per carry average is only topped by the first five games in 2010 when he averaged 5.4 en route to his first 1,000-yard rushing season, and when he averaged 5.8 per carry in the first five games on the way to his career best 17 rushing touchdown campaign in 2011.
His 12 runs of 10 or more yards this season is third-best tied with Dallas Ezekiel Elliott and Tennessee's DeMarco Murray.
There's a renewed fire burning in McCoy's gut, one that has him in contention for the league's rushing title.
More than motivation and his exploits on the field, head coach Rex Ryan believes McCoy's approach to his game is the biggest difference this year.
"He's focused," said Ryan. "He wants to be the very best player he can possible be. He showed that with his workouts and his conditioning, all that. He was really disappointed how he played last year. Most of us were like, 'Man he was great.' But I think he thought he could do better than that and he is doing better than that."
Bills right tackle Jordan Mills saw McCoy's current production coming way back in the spring.
"I think we all knew that he wasn't 100 percent last season. And it bothered him a lot that he couldn't do some of the things that he normally does," said Mills. "So he worked out harder than he ever has to make sure an injury like the one he had last year didn't happen again. And all through camp he just kept saying, 'We're going to see. We're going to see.' I think we're all seeing it."
What everyone in Buffalo is finally seeing is the real McCoy. The one everyone in Philadelphia is still disappointed to see in another uniform.
"I would say he's definitely playing with an extra burst," said Tyrod Taylor. "You could tell last year that the hamstring would bother him on certain runs. He couldn't get back to some of the holes he was trying to get to and I think this year he's definitely seeing them and getting back to them with his feet as well."
McCoy appears well on his way putting his game back on an elite level, but it will still be hard for him not to nitpick his game.
"I just call myself being honest. I think a lot of players have good games or there are star players that are successful," said McCoy. "(There are) some plays that I wish I could have done better. I'm just trying to perfect my game and be the player that this team needs and that they want."
Just don't call him a perfectionist… even if he fits the description.
"Yes he is," said Mills. "If he misses a touchdown or a long run it'll drive him crazy. He works hard watching film and he'll say, 'Alright next time I see it coming I'm going to do this instead and turn it into six.' He could be coming off a 30-yard run and he's like, 'I should've had a touchdown.' That's the kind of leader and person he is to see the little things that he misses and work on it and perfect it. That's why he's getting better each and every week."
McCoy's teammates marvel at his ability to make something out of nothing. Two weeks ago he had just received a hand-off against the Patriots and there was penetration in the Bills offensive backfield to his immediate right where the design of the play was to go. He calmly let the penetration slide past him as he made his way to the right edge of the formation. A New England linebacker shot through a gap to nail McCoy as he moved laterally down the line. McCoy calmly dipped his inside shoulder and the linebacker slid right off him.
The left cornerback put his back to the sideline in an effort to turn McCoy back inside and not give him the corner. McCoy was happy to take the inside lane. He put his foot in the ground and turned up field. His burst was so sudden that he squeezed between a pair of safeties and was only caught from a backside pursuing defensive linemen near the first down marker. What looked like a four-yard loss was turned into a nine-yard gain.
"Just like Gale Sayers said when he was a rookie, all he needs is 18 inches of daylight, Shady needs about 10 when he puts his foot in the ground," said Mills chuckling. "He makes cuts and sees things that no other running back in this league does. You see this little crease and you see him hit it and fit through it like it's nothing. It's simple for him and hard for other guys to do."
McCoy's ability is so rare that his teammates sometimes get caught peeking. Taylor admitted that in the times on hand-offs when he's supposed to be carrying out a fake, he'll look over his shoulder to watch McCoy leave defensive linemen grabbing at air and squeezing through cracks much thinner than McCoy's frame.
"When it comes to vision definitely number one in the league to me," said Taylor of McCoy. "A lot of guys can see a hole, but can't necessarily get to it. He can see it and get to it with his feet. It's amazing to see because I see the back angle. Sometimes I can see a cut and he'll see it as well and we'll talk about it after the game or on the sideline. It's definitely a positive when he's out there running the way he's been running and definitely beneficial for our team."
McCoy does recognize that he's had some memorable performances in his career, but it's clear there's an inner drive to always do more.
"You always want to do your best," said McCoy. "There are always plays that you want back, that you could have done differently. And then there's some games that you play well. The numbers might not be there, but you got an assignment and you were 100 percent. You were perfect. That's very hard, but there are some times that it happens. The numbers will always show that."
Right now the numbers are showing that McCoy should still be a feared back in the NFL, no matter how many defenders an opponent may want to put in the box.
"He's showing everybody that he still the Shady that he's always been ever since he's been in the league," Mills said. "He knows what people wrote and said and he's out to prove them wrong. And we're going to help him prove them wrong."