Healthy Mathews puts bite into run game

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

Re­cov­ered from a tooth surgery and re­lieved of the pain, Ea­gles run­ning back Ryan Mathews saw plenty of ac­tion Sun­day in a win over the At­lanta Fal­cons at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field.

PHILADEL­PHIA >> While aware that the de­mands of a foot­ball sea­son will be plen­ti­ful, Doug Ped­er­son con­fronted a fresh one two weeks ago in Dal­las. That’s when Ryan Mathews could barely squeeze into a par­tic­u­larly use­ful piece of equip­ment.

“He couldn’t put his hel­met on,” Ped­er­son said Sun­day. “Then he had root canal the next day. So we kept with Dar­ren Sproles for a cou­ple of weeks. But Ryan was still a part of the big­ger pic­ture.”

For the com­bi­na­tion of his size and the po­si­tion in his ca­reer, Mathews fig­ured to be the Birds’ most re­li­able run­ning back op­tion. With DeMarco Mur­ray gone, Wen­dell Small­wood a rookie and the 5-6 Sproles an un­ortho­dox threat, the 29-year-old Mathews, a for­mer Pro Bowl back, was viewed as crit­i­cal.

But he re­ported the toothache be­fore the Birds lost in Dal­las, where he’d man­age just four car­ries. And last week, he ran just five times in a loss to the Giants at the Mead­ow­lands. Re­cov­ered, though, from the surgery and re­lieved of the pain, Mathews rushed 19 times Sun­day in the Ea­gles’ 24-15 vic­tory over the At­lanta Fal­cons. He was back. The Ea­gles won. No co­in­ci­dence? “Just try­ing to keep you guys off bal­ance,” Ped­er­son said, kid­dingly, to the press. “But you know what? I’ve al­ways had con­fi­dence in Ryan Mathews. I think what you saw today is the guy that I kept see­ing, the guy we wanted to see. And I fully had con­fi­dence in him, as I do Dar­ren and Wen­dell and Ken­jon Barner.

“We put the ball in his hands. He did a nice job today.”

Mathews scored on a four-yard run in the first quar­ter and a five-yard burst in the fourth, then added a two-point con­ver­sion run to push the Birds ahead by six points with 6:49 left. He av­er­aged 5.7 yards, mix­ing in a 21-yard carry, and best es­tab­lished the game’s pace. Be­hind him, the Ea­gles dom­i­nated in time of pos­ses­sion (38:10 to 21.50), rushed for 209 yards and im­proved to 5-4.

“The run game was huge today,” Car­son Wentz said. “We had over 200 yards, and that was big. It was good to get him go­ing again. Ob­vi­ously, he has had a cou­ple of down weeks, but it was good to feed him the rock. And he was run­ning an­gry. And then the O-line is play­ing like that, it makes my job easy. I’ll tell you that much.”

The com­mit­ment to the run, which in­cluded 13 Small­wood car­ries, seemed to add to the Birds’ bounce.

“It was real good,” Mathews said. “It shows a lot. I know the line­men love run block­ing, too. It was a fun game out there. It was hard. You have to give it to them. They played great.

“We did what we needed to do to win.”

The Ea­gles needed to es­tab­lish a run­ning game. But they could not have done that with­out a re­ju­ve­nated Ryan Mathews.

“We just have to keep go­ing, one game at a time,” Mathews said. “We just have to keep prepar­ing and keep work­ing.”

As long as he can put his hel­met on, that will be his plan.

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Philadel­phia Ea­gles’ run­ning back Ryan Mathews racked up 108 rush­ing yards and two touch­downs Sun­day against At­lanta.

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