December 09, 2015

As talk of a brewing backfield controversy becomes louder, the Philadelphia Eagles now must deal with an unhappy running back on the opposing side.

LeSean McCoy returns to Philadelphia on Sunday for the first time since his trade to Buffalo, adding further intrigue to a significant matchup for both teams.

The Eagles made one of the offseason's more shocking moves by sending McCoy, the franchise rushing leader and 2013 NFL rushing champion, to the Bills in March for linebacker Kiko Alonso. More eyebrows were raised when Philadelphia signed 2014 league rushing leader DeMarco Murray and two-time 1,000-yard rusher Ryan Mathews to multiyear contracts shortly after the trade.

It's clear McCoy took notice, reportedly claiming that race played a role in coach Chip Kelly's dumping of him and other black players during an offseason overhaul - an accusation Kelly denied.

McCoy insisted he doesn't hate Kelly, but made it abundantly clear this week that he still holds a grudge.

''Chip can't shake (anything),'' McCoy said Wednesday, using a profanity when asked if he'll shake hands with the Eagles coach afterward.

For his part, Kelly said he's got ''great respect'' for McCoy and referred to him as one of the NFL's premier running backs.

Buffalo (6-6) has gotten the better end of the deal thus far, as McCoy's 79.2 rushing yards per game rank fourth in the league as the centerpiece of an offense that's averaging 140.9 on the ground.

"From our perspective, we couldn't be happier with (the trade)," coach Rex Ryan said. "I mean, obviously LeSean is a great player, great talent and we love him in the building. He's got that great energy about him and (is a) good teammate."

Murray's transition hasn't gone as smoothly. The ex-Dallas Cowboy is averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per rush and has one 100-yard game after recording 12 during his banner 1,845-yard 2014.

Despite Mathews missing a third straight game with a concussion last week, Murray had just eight carries for 24 yards as Darren Sproles and Kenyon Barner received the bulk of the work in a 35-28 upset of New England.

Instead of discussing a stunning and potentially season-saving victory that placed Philadelphia (5-7) in a three-way tie atop the mediocre NFC East, Kelly spent much of his postgame press conference fielding questions about Murray's lack of involvement.

"All of our running backs knew our game plan going into that game, so it wasn't a surprise to anybody in terms of what we were doing," he said. "We are not trying to win a rushing championship or a passing championship or a receiving championship or anything from that stretch of the imagination. We are just trying to win football games."

The drama hasn't died down in the days leading up to Sunday. An ESPN report Tuesday stated Murray expressed concern over his role to owner Jeffrey Lurie on the team's charter flight home, and Mathews' expected return this week further clouds the situation.

Mathews had been the Eagles' most effective back prior to the injury, averaging 5.7 yards on his 75 attempts.

While Kelly didn't deny Murray's frustration, he refuted the notion that Murray sought out Lurie, calling the conversation coincidental because the two were simply seated alongside one another.

''Every running back wants the ball more. Every wide receiver wants the ball more. Every quarterback wishes he threw the ball more,'' he said.

While Murray's role remains muddled, the Eagles can expect McCoy to factor heavily in the game plan. Buffalo is 6-2 when rushing for 127 or more yards and 0-4 when gaining 115 or fewer, while Philadelphia ranks 27th in the NFL in rushing defense at 124.7 yards per game.

McCoy produced his third 100-yard effort in five weeks with 112 in last Sunday's 30-21 win over Houston, which kept the Bills one game back of New York, Pittsburgh and Kansas City in the AFC wild-card race.

The Eagles gained only 248 yards against the Patriots in quarterback Sam Bradford's return from a two-game absence due to a concussion and injured left shoulder. They still sent New England to its second straight loss by scoring two touchdowns on special teams and another on Malcolm Jenkins' 99-yard interception return of Tom Brady.

Philadelphia's 23 takeaways are tied for second in the NFL, but the Bills have turned it over just three times in five games with Tyrod Taylor back under center. The first-year starter has attempted a club-record 187 consecutive passes without an interception and thrown for three touchdowns in each of the past two weeks.

"I think he's legit," Ryan said. "I think he's real and I think people are starting to realize that."

Three of those six TD passes have gone to Sammy Watkins, who followed a six-catch, 158-yard performance at Kansas City in Week 12 with 109 receiving yards against the Texans.

The Bills make their first visit to Lincoln Financial Field since a 17-9 loss in 2007. Buffalo won 31-24 in the teams' last meeting in 2011.

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