By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Deshaun Watson and Bill O’Brien exploited the Patriots defense by turning to their secondary options. Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are smart enough to try the same when the Chiefs come to Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
One of those potential weapons is a longtime thorn in the side of Patriots defenders, running back LeSean McCoy.
Over the course of his career, McCoy has arguably been the most consistently dangerous back the Patriots have faced. In eight games against the Pats since 2009, McCoy has averaged 4.02 yards per carry and 8.94 yards per reception. Only Fred Jackson averaged more production in those categories at RB (minimum 100 carries and 50 targets). McCoy’s production obviously didn’t result in many wins, since he played most of those games for the Bills. But the Chiefs with Mahomes and his arsenal are an entirely new challenge.
The Patriots held McCoy in check last time they played him, when he totaled just 19 yards on nine touches last season for the Bills. But it won’t be as simple against the Chiefs. McCoy isn’t the main guy. He may not even be the third or fourth.
But based on the way they’ve used McCoy out of the backfield with Mahomes, and the way the Texans used their own backs against the Patriots defense, the Chiefs may be forced to feed him the ball and see what happens.
The Patriots know Tyreek Hill will absolutely positively destroy them if they can’t neutralize him in the deep part of the field. Bill Belichick described tight end Travis Kelce as “one of the best receivers in the league”, a true matchup nightmare as a pass-catcher. If the defense commits to taking those two away, that may leave Mahomes looking to get the ball in McCoy’s hands and turn shorter passes into chunk yardage.
McCoy picked up a solid gain last week against the Raiders in a play that looks similar to Duke Johnson’s touchdown for the Texans last Sunday. Mahomes sees the Raiders are in man-to-man and K.C. calls a pick play chipping the linebacker out of his coverage, leaving McCoy wide open in the flat.
It’s a simple play and not necessarily one that would fool the Patriots like it did the Raiders, but the kind of simple gain the Chiefs would happily take all the way down the field if the defense is selling out to stop Hill and Kelce. And even without the pick play, are the Patriots equipped at linebacker to cover McCoy in space?
McCoy also proved earlier in the season against the Chargers that he can be a factor deep down the field. He lines up in the backfield then goes straight up the seam and finds a soft spot in the Chargers’ zones for a 16-yard out.
They’d sure take these plays if they’re available. Because McCoy may not be the Chiefs’ primary option, but he still passes the eye test despite being in his 11th season.
I mean, what hasn’t [McCoy] done at the running back position?” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “Obviously, he’s been with Andy Reid before, but he’s a guy, too, when he gets the ball in his hand, you’ve got to have everybody at the point of attack. It doesn’t matter if the play is designed to go left, he can cut back, go right. He can make anybody in the NFL miss one-on-one, so I think you take a guy like that who’s a veteran that understands this league – it’s his 11th year – I think when you talk about still to be able to play at your highest level of football that you played at throughout your career, and still be able to be explosive, to be quick, to be able to be very elusive, to me, is what’s tough about playing LeSean McCoy. And I think that hasn’t changed.
“Now he’s on a team where there’s a lot of guys that can do that, so you have a lot to worry about. So, I think probably because of that, he doesn’t get as many headlines as he got when he was in Buffalo, but he still will make anybody miss. He can create a big play at any moment. So, we know how important it is to stop him, not only in the run game, but also when he gets the ball in his hands in the pass game.”
McCoy is as familiar a face as it gets for the Patriots defense. But the Texans game showed ways that opposing offenses could try to beat them if their primary targets aren’t open. As a secondary weapon on similar plays, McCoy is about as dangerous as it gets.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.