What’s the difference between LeSean “Shady” McCoy and Matt Forte? Not much at all.
Philadelphia’s McCoy leads the NFL in rushing with 1,343 yards and 1,850 total yards from scrimmage. Forte is third in both categories with 1,200 yards rushing and 1,722 of total offense.
These both are special running backs.
Bears coach Marc Trestman is focused on the challenge McCoy presents.
“He’s certainly special. He’s such an explosive player he can do it all,” Trestman said. “We’ve faced good backs every week and he’s one of the best in the league. He’s a difference-maker. We’re going to have to know where he is and we’re going to have to do everything we can to neutralize him.
“Last week, we went in and it was Josh Gordon. You go in each and every week and say who do we have to neutralize this week and make sure that we minimize their ability to make a difference. Then you work from there, and [McCoy is] certainly the starting point.”
That is one of the few differences between the two backs that could favor the Bears. Altough the Eagles’ offense is extremely explosive and productive, DeSean Jackson is the only other Eagle who will merit special attention.
Should the Eagles attempt to stack the box against Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett all have shown the ability to be difference-makers.
But it also is fair to say McCoy will be the best player on the field.
“He’s fast, he’s quick, he’s got great vision, he’s got excellent hands out of the backfield on screens and checkdowns, he’s very competitive, he can go the distance, and he’s a guy who always wants the ball,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said.
How do you stop him?
No Bear is more familiar with McCoy than defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff, who has faced him twice a year with Dallas since Philadelphia drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft.
“He has unique ability to read his blockers and find holes quickly and explode out of them,” Ratliff said. “Everybody’s aware of what he does and yet he still produces, so we really have to stay in our gaps and each man as an individual just take care of his responsibilities. We just have to focus on the goals we set for ourselves and play ball.”
As scary as McCoy can be to opposing defenses, he also appears to be a card-carrying member of the Matt Forte fan club.
“Oh man, Forte’s excellent and I was a big fan even before this year,” McCoy said. “I played in the Pro Bowl with him, nice guy. It’s hard to get a guy who can run, catch and block and that’s why he’s one of the best running backs. He’s in my top five running backs in the league.”
Bears linebacker James Anderson echoed McCoy’s point and seems to think it gives the Bears an advantage.
“They’re both great players,” Anderson said. “They have different types of abilities but they’re both quick, both can make cuts in open space and they can make the first defender miss. So by having Matt here and getting to practice against him, I think it helps us.”
So will the presence of two of the NFL’s best running backs be the difference in this Sunday’s primetime game? Consider the challenge McCoy has given himself.
“I told the media here (in Philadelphia), I feel like I want to put this game on my back and go out there and showcase what we can do offensively running the ball,” McCoy said. “I just want to go out there and put the offense on my back and get it done.”
If the Bears and Forte are to prevail in this must-win moment, they’re going to have to have an answer for McCoy.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.