The job is not yet finished for McCoy, Bills in playoff chase

Buffalo Bills' LeSean McCoy (25) rushes past Miami Dolphins' Kiko Alonso (47) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

ORCHARD PARK — LeSean McCoy does something that only 29 running backs did in the NFL, and yet, jubilation has come and gone as the Buffalo Bills go for something more.

On a 14-yard run in Sunday’s 24-16 win against the Dolphins, the 29-year-old running back surpassed 10,000 career rushing yards. However, as McCoy ran past the milestone, he looks at the next level: 12,000 career rushing yards. Only 16 running backs achieved this mark, including Thurman Thomas with 12,074.

McCoy’s mindset of a greater goal is emulated by his fellow Bills teammates. The victory was another turnaround moment, something that Buffalo can capitalize on to make the playoffs.

“I’m happy it’s over, I’m happy it’s done,” McCoy said about the milestone after saying his teammates cheered for it “maybe even more” than he did. “Now I can look forward to us trying to get in this playoff. We took care of business today and we got a huge opponent (the New England Patriots) next week.”

Buffalo began the season 5-2, then stumbled midseason with a big loss to the Jets in primetime, followed by being trounced by the Saints and again to the Los Angeles Chargers. After falling to 5-5, the Bills attained a two-game winning streak, heading into Foxborough to face New England, with only two weeks remaining in the regular season.

The inconsistencies throughout the year created a rollercoaster for the Bills’ place in the standings and for the fans.

“I think that’s the NFL for the most part,” Bills veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “There’s ebb and flow throughout a season; there’s ups and downs. It’s not too often you see a team just fly high the whole season, look at the Patriots, look at the Chargers, you can look at the Saints. They started 0-2 (Saints) and 0-4 (Chargers). Then they found a rhythm.”

And that’s true. The New Orleans Saints lost to the Vikings in Week 1, 29-19, and the Patriots in Week 2, 36-20. From there, it was all about the “Who dat” team as the Saints ran an eight-game win streak (including a win over Buffalo on Nov. 12). The Chargers have a similar story — and not just because they both beat the Bills. The Chargers’ 0-4 start was reversed with an ignition of the defensive line, and the team now finds itself at 7-7.

Buffalo is in a more promising position than the Chargers, but with the ups and downs, what Bills team will take the field the final two weeks? The turnover machine on defense for the first seven weeks, the D-line that allowed 298 rushing yards against the Saints or a Buffalo squad that forced the Dolphins into three turnovers and had Tyrod Taylor, who had 266 all-purpose yards, and McCoy, with 96 total yards, carry the offense to a win?

Alexander noted that through it all, the mental toughness is what helped Buffalo come back from the midseason slump.

“We hit our rhythm early; we had our ups and downs,” Alexander said. “I think the biggest thing is that we stayed together. There wasn’t any dysfunction in the locker room as far as offense not doing this, defense not doing this, special teams not doing this. We stayed together … and eventually we started to work things out and now we are starting to see the fruits to our labor.”

McCoy echoed the same sentiment about this Bills team. McCoy, another veteran who has been in the league for nine seasons, focused on the accountability and that “guys are on time for meetings. It’s like they want to be here.”

Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have turned this roster on its head. They traded Marcell Dareus, who was sent home from a preseason game because he showed up late, and sent Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams, who recently had a story published by Bleacher Report where Watkins said he “was more of a statistics guy (in Buffalo). That’s what I was chasing.”

As Buffalo disposed of these players, a synchronized locker room bonded together. And, as players noted, after the growing pains, the Bills look to put themselves in serious contention for postseason play.

“Listen, I’ve been on a lot of good teams with a lot of talent,” McCoy said. “But the good teams I’ve been on like (have) the attitudes like this: being on time, being accountable, holding the guy next to you accountable, not wanting to let your teammates down. A lot of guys put a lot on the line. … That’s what you want for a team to be successful, and that’s what we’re doing.”

To have a Week 18, Buffalo needs to win against the Dolphins in its last game of the season and hope for favorable losses. However, Buffalo can take things into its own hands and defeat the Patriots, who are fighting for home field advantage in playoffs, and have great odds to all but secure a wild card spot.

The New York Times playoff simulator gives Buffalo around a 96-percent chance to make the playoffs if it sweeps the final two games with wins. However, a loss to New England and a win over Miami puts the Bills at odds ranging from the mid-60s to mid-70s, due to the possibility of upsets in the simulator.

So, as enjoyable the eight-point victory over Miami was and to see McCoy surpass 10,000 career rushing yards, it isn’t over yet. The stress, the agony, the struggle of meaningful late-season games for the Buffalo Bills will engulf fans for the next two weeks. The Bills haven’t come up big yet this century for the postseason.

The difference from the past 17 years and now may be that dang, stinking process we’ve all heard about.

Twitter: @Kuczkowski95