McCoy owns fourth quarters for Eagles

MY DAILY NEWS colleague Rich Hofmann is much better at this than I am.

Over the last decade, he has made a point of debunking the popular notion that Eagles coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are pass-happy maniacs with no regard for the running game.

Hofmann concedes that the Eagles throw a lot, but he has always said that when judging the Birds' perceived lack of commitment to run, you have to understand the overall philosophy of the offense.

Pass the ball first. Get a lead by halftime. Then run the ball more in the second half to control the clock and game.

When analyzed in that scope, the Eagles aversion to the run is not nearly as dramatic as portrayed.

Hofmann says the Eagles' pass-to-run ratio in the second half of games is much more in line with what people consider a balanced attack. It's only when the game gets off script that the numbers may end up bordering on the 70/30 percent range.

This takes us to Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and the 122 yards he rushed for against the St. Louis Rams in the 31-13, season-opening victory.

Limited to just 27 yards on 11 carries for the first three quarters, McCoy ran for 95 time-consuming yards in the fourth quarter after the Birds had taken a 24-13 lead.

Shady's 49-yard touchdown run sealed the victory.

The rushing results were the ideal scenario for Reid's offensive philosophy.

"I'll take you back to even the [San Francisco 49ers coach] Bill Walsh days of this offense, through in Green Bay and then Seattle," Reid, one of last remaining disciples of the original "West Coast Offense," said yesterday at his day-after press conference. "You see the second half and particularly the fourth quarter are very productive for runners.

"That's the way you want to do it, especially if you have a lead. You want to keep the clock running and still have productive runs."

In McCoy, Reid finally has a back who he can unquestionably depend on to thrive in those situations.

No disrespect to Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook, who were outstanding runners in their Eagles careers, but McCoy is the closest thing Reid has had to a "closer" back.

I didn't forget my sports.

If you look at what McCoy is asked to do in the fourth quarter for the Eagles, he is a lot like a football version of Phillies closer Ryan Madson.

McCoy is the guy the Birds go to late in the game to seal up a victory.

With the Phillies All-Star starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, it's sometimes easy for Madson to get lost in the background - at least until it comes time to close out a game.

McCoy is in a similar situation as his contributions are often overshadowed by those of quarterback Michael Vick and big-play receiver DeSean Jackson.

But like Madson has done with the Phillies, McCoy has emerged as a star in a role that is vitally important to the success of his team.

For last season's fourth-quarter numbers, he led NFL running backs by rushing for 339 yards and averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Against the Rams, McCoy rushed four times in the fourth for a ridiculous average of 23.8 yards per carry.

Obviously, the 49-yard touchdown was the big one, but each of McCoy's fourth-quarter carries went for more than 10 yards.

McCoy gathered a first down on every carry in the fourth quarter. Production like that sucks the life out of a defense that is trailing in a game and desperately trying to get the ball back for its offense.

Reid said McCoy's reliability is simply the work of a young player recognizing what it takes to succeed in the NFL and then making the commitment to do what is necessary.

McCoy had 155 carries for 637 yards as a rookie in 2009, but then took it to another level by rushing for 1,080 yards on 207 carries last season, good for 5.2 yards per.

"I think [McCoy's] rookie year, like a lot of rookies, he came in and he didn't quite understand the demands it takes to play running back in the National Football League," Reid said. "He came back last year in much better shape.

"He's maintained that. He's maintained it through the lockout and came into camp in good shape."

Reid said McCoy is simply able to maintain his speed, strength and stamina in the final 15 minutes, which makes it difficult for a worn-out defense to stop him.

Much of that is reflected in the fact that for his career McCoy now has four fourth-quarter touchdown runs of more than 40 yards.

"I think that matters going into the fourth quarter of a game," Reid said. "[McCoy is] still carrying the football prior to the fourth quarter, running routes, catching the ball in the screen and pass game and blocking.

"[The fourth quarter] really comes down to his conditioning."