ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Taking a few steps back led to LeSean McCoy enjoying more than a few big rushes forward.
After a sputtering start to the season, the Buffalo Bills running back showed signs of regaining his footing by setting up deeper in the backfield. Having a fullback lined up in front of him didn’t hurt either.
“I like to be the dot better,” he said Wednesday, referring to his spot as the dot in the traditional “I” formation. “They gave me the ball deep and let me be able to use my vision to read blocks.”
McCoy began resembling his old shifty self in sparking Buffalo (1-2) to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. He finished with 110 yards rushing — nearly doubling the 117 yards he combined for in his first two games — on 17 carries, and scored two touchdowns rushing, including the 50th of his career.
McCoy credited the performance on Anthony Lynn, Buffalo’s running backs coach who was promoted to offensive coordinator after Greg Roman was fired on Sept. 16. Aside from simplifying the playbook, Lynn provided McCoy the freedom to choose which hole to run through rather than simply following the play’s design, as was the case under Roman.
“I’m not the biggest guy,” McCoy said, referring to his 5-foot-11 frame. “I like to pick if I can go inside or outside.”
Add in quarterback Tyrod Taylor running for 76 yards and a touchdown, Buffalo totaled 208 yards on the ground. It was the type of outing expected from an offense that led the NFL with 2,432 yards rushing last year.
“It’s a huge confidence boost,” guard Richie Incognito said. “That’s our brand of football. That’s what we’re built for. That’s all what we’ve all been brought in to do.”
The challenge is to carry over the momentum to Sunday, when Buffalo travels to play AFC East rival New England (3-0).
Despite the win over Arizona, the Bills have several issues still to address on offense.
The passing attack has so far been mostly grounded. It ranks 32nd with 491 yards, and 155 of those came on two plays — Marquise Goodwin’s 84-yard touchdown and Greg Salas’ 71-yard touchdown — in a 37-31 loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 15.
Then there’s the uncertain status of Buffalo’s top receiving threat, Sammy Watkins. He did not play against Arizona after a teammate stepped on his surgically repaired left foot during a walk-through session last week. Watkins did not practice Wednesday.
Buffalo’s offensive line is also limping.
Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn practiced on a limited basis after missing the past two games with an injury to his left ankle. And Glenn’s backup, Cyrus Kouandjio, did not practice after hurting his ankle against Arizona.
The Bills addressed their depth by signing tackle Michael Ola off the Giants’ practice squad. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, Ola has 19 starts in 23 career NFL games split between Chicago, Detroit and San Diego over the past two seasons.
On the bright side, at least McCoy is healthy. That’s a switch from a year ago when the NFL’s 2013 rushing leader opened the season bothered by a hamstring injury and closed the season hampered by a knee injury.
He’s also relatively fresh after the Bills took a cautious approach in limiting McCoy’s practice time in training camp and playing time during the preseason.
“I don’t think I’m old,” said McCoy, who’s in his eighth NFL season and second in Buffalo after being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia.
“I’m 28,” McCoy said. “Thirty-one is old.”