Healthy Mathews puts bite into run game
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.
Philadelphia Eagles’ running back Ryan Mathews racked up 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns Sunday against Atlanta.