SAN FRANCISCO - LeSean McCoy spent most of last week watching his teammates prepare for the 49ers while he stood on the sideline, or in the training room nursing a fractured rib.
But there he was last night, out on the field, fighting through the pain and helping his team win a game it absolutely, positively had to win. With the 4-1 Falcons coming to the Linc next Sunday, and a road battle against the Tennessee Titans right after that, a loss last night would've put the Eagles in a 2-3 hole from which they might not have been able to dig out.
"You gotta give him credit,'' head coach Andy Reid said of McCoy. "He's a tough kid. There was no doubt he was going to play. He went places a lot of people wouldn't go.''
With a flak jacket protecting his injured rib, McCoy rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and had five catches for another 46 yards as the Eagles hung on for a 27-24 win over the Niners.
That's 23 touches and 138 yards from scrimmage.
With a broken rib.
No one would have blamed McCoy if the 5-11, 208-pounder had taken a rain check last night, if he gave the broken rib a week to heal.
Truth is, though, if he had done that, the Eagles probably would be 2-3 today, rather than tied for the division lead at 3-2.
Backup Mike Bell, can't do the things McCoy can do. You can't move Bell around the formation like the Eagles do with McCoy. You can't count on him to bust screens for first downs like McCoy can.
Bell had just 8 yards on four carries against the Niners.
"I was in a little bit of pain, but not too much,'' McCoy said after the game. "It is what it is. It's a broken rib.
"All the guys are banged up. I didn't want to let them down. I went out there prepared to play.''
McCoy's biggest run of the game came with 1:53 left in the first half when he busted through a hole created by left guard Todd Herremans and center Mike McGlynn and went 29 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 17-7 lead.
Herremans and McGlynn got to the second level and double-teamed the Niners' All-Pro linebacker, Patrick Willis, allowing McCoy to kick it into high gear and bolt down the field.
"I didn't do anything but run for the touchdown,'' the running back said. "I saw the crease and hit it. They gave me a nice hole to run through.''
McCoy credited the offensive line with giving his injured rib almost as much protection as his flak jacket.
"I didn't take too many shots tonight,'' he said. "Our offensive line did a good job.''
Herremans also saved McCoy later in the game when, with the Eagles clinging to a seven-point lead, he fumbled after getting hit by Willis and safety Taylor Mays. A hustling Herremans fell on the ball. Three plays later, David Akers booted a 45-yard field goal that ended up being the game's deciding points.
The only other real mistake the second-year running back made came late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles up by three, and trying to run out the clock, McCoy took a second-and-13 pass from Kevin Kolb. He mistook where the first-down marker was and dived for what he thought was the first down. But he was 2 yards short.
On third-and-2, he was stoned by the Niners for no gain, and the Eagles had to give the ball back to the Niners one last time.
"I should've gotten that [first down],'' McCoy said. "That was me overthinking. I thought I had the first down. I wanted to get down there and keep the clock running and close the game out. We can't always put it on our defense.''
-- Would Asante Samuel and/or Riley Cooper, who suffered what Andy Reid described as mild concussions last week, have played last night if the team hadn't taken so much criticism for their (mis)handling of the Stewart Bradley and Kevin Kolb concussions in Week 1?
-- Why there wasn't a booth review of Kevin Kolb's fumble late in the first half. There was no question that he fumbled, but it appeared he might have recovered and been down before the Niners' Manny Lawson got the ball. It seems like it was at least worth spending 10 seconds looking at it.
Thumbs down I
-- To Andy Reid for letting David Akers attempt a 53-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead rather than punt the ball.
Reid faced a similar situation early in the third quarter when the Eagles had a fourth-and-9 at the Niners' 33-yard line. Akers would have had to kick into the wind there, and Reid wisely opted to punt the ball.
He was set to punt again on the second one, but the third quarter ended after he sent out his punt team. Akers convinced him that he could make the with-the-wind kick. But it was wide left and a little short, giving San Francisco the ball at its 43-yard line.
But for an Alex Smith fumble that Quintin Mikell returned 52 yards for a touchdown, Reid's decision to try that field goal might've been fatal.
"I should've just punted and let our defense play it,'' Reid admitted after the game. "David felt good about [making] it. But that wind was so gusty. If I had it to do over, I would've punted.''
Thumbs down II
-- To the Eagles' coverage units, which, once again, were awful. The last 2 weeks, it was the punt coverage unit. Gave up a 53-yard punt return against the Redskins and a 41-yarder the week before against Jacksonville.
Last night, it was their kickoff coverage that betrayed them. They gave up a game-opening 44-yarder to Ted Ginn that kick-started the Niners' first touchdown drive, and later gave up a 61-yarder to Ginn in the fourth quarter that set up yet another touchdown drive.
Did you notice?
-- How much inside room the Eagles gave Michael Crabtree on his two big catches on the Niners' first touchdown drive.
-- King Dunlap replaced Jason Peters at left tackle after Peters injured his knee in the first quarter. Dunlap promptly gave up a sack to Justin Smith on a second-and-5 at the San Francisco 15. Dunlap struggled in pass-protection much of the night.
-- Ernie Sims blew up Brian Westbrook on a play in the second quarter. Niners quarterback Alex Smith saw it coming and kept the ball, gaining 3 yards on a first-and-15 play.
-- The Eagles ran the Wildcat on their first possession, splitting Kevin Kolb out to the right and having DeSean Jackson take the direct snap. He gained 8 yards on the third-and-3 play. They weren't so fortunate when they ran the Wildcat again in the third quarter with running back Eldra Buckley taking the direct snap on a third-and-1 play. Buckley ran right up the back of left guard Todd Herremans and failed to pick up the first down.
-- The big blocks by Todd Herremans and center Mike McGlynn on middle linebacker Patrick Willis on LeSean McCoy's 29-yard second-quarter TD run.
-- Chad Hall, who was signed off the practice squad to replace Riley Cooper, got his first NFL reception. He had a 9-yard catch on a third-and-2 play out of a four-wide receiver formation in the third quarter.
-- Juqua Parker's costly offsides penalty late in the second quarter. It came on a third-and-12 play on the Philadelphia 37. The 5 yards allowed Joe Nedney to boot a 50-yard field goal with 43 seconds left in the half.
-- The Eagles moved Kevin Kolb out of the pocket quite a bit.
-- Andy Reid elected to punt on a fourth-and-9 at the San Francisco 33-yard line early in the third quarter rather than have David Akers attempt a 51-yarder against the wind. If Akers had missed, the Niners would have gotten the ball at their 41.
-- Rookie Trevard Lindley, who was inactive the last two games, saw action as the fourth corner in dime packages. With Asante Samuel out with a concussion, Joselio Hanson started and Dimitri Patterson was the nickel corner.
-- The Eagles had problems stopping their opponent on third-and-long again. They gave up an 11-yard completion to Michael Crabtree on a third-and-8 on the Niners' first touchdown drive. Then, in the third quarter, they gave up a 31-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis on a third-and-21.
By the numbers
-- With the win, the Eagles are 16-6 against the NFC West under Andy Reid.
-- The win was the Eagles' fifth in a row over the Niners.
-- The Eagles improved their October record in the Reid era to 26-18.
-- The Eagles have given up first-possession touchdowns in the last two games.
-- Todd Herremans' holding penalty in the first quarter was the eighth against the Eagles' offensive line in the first five games.
-- The Eagles committed a season-low five penalties.
-- The Eagles scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time this season. Drove 75 yards, which was 51 more yards than they gained on their first possessions in the first four games.
-- Sav Rocca had two 51-yard punts. That makes 16 boots of 50-plus yards in 28 attempts this season.
-- The only interception the Eagles have thrown in the first five games was that end-of-the-game Hail Mary last week against the Redskins by Kevin Kolb.
-- Opponents have converted 9 of 11 red-zone opportunities into touchdowns against the Eagles.