With more than nine minutes left in the third quarter Sunday night and the game already slipping away from the Philadelphia Eagles, Ryan Mathews planted his foot in the ground, cut through the line, dashed passed Luke Kuechly and galloped by the Carolina Panthers‘ secondary for a 63-yard touchdown run to pull his team back within a score.
The rest of the game Mathews had exactly one carry. One.
Mathews rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on six carries (16.2 average) including gashes of 63 and 22 yards. Meanwhile DeMarco Murray, who currently possesses the lateral quickness of a tortoise, carried 18 times for 65 yards, many times being bogged down for little or no gain.
It’s puzzling how anyone can watch Mathews and Murray each run and conclude that Murray should get more snaps. After the game, coach Chip Kelly pointed the question at running backs coach Duce Staley.
“Duce is running the rotation,” Kelly said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Some of it is we’re calling pass plays. (Mathews) was in there for a few passes.”
Passing the question off on Staley is a cop-out answer from the man who coaches and picks out the groceries. Is the only power Kelly doesn’t possess deciding which running back is on the field for which plays?
Mathews played nice after the loss.
“There’s only one ball,” he said. “We’ve got three good running backs.”
Mathews has displayed the one-cut, aggressive, north-south power and agility that flourishes in Kelly’s offense. His 63-yard touchdown was reminiscent of the plays Oregon popped off often during Kelly’s reign. We’ve rarely seen them in Philly and certainly not when Murray has been handling the rock.
Still, the refrain from the locker room is the same: In Chip We Trust.
“I think the coaches will analyze that, and I think there may be some changes made during the bye week,” Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said. “I think Chip’s good at analyzing that, and we’ll make the adjustments that need to be made.”
He’s got seven weeks of game tape to analyze and only one obvious conclusion to make: Mathews needs the ball more.
UPDATE: Kelly said Monday that one reason Mathews didn’t get more touches Sunday night was that he hurt his groin on the 22-yard run, which came before the 63-yard touchdown scamper and the Eagles were monitoring the back’s status.
Mathews still played after the injury. After the bye, if he’s healthy, he needs more carries.