San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has had a forgettable few weeks having fumbled in the red zone against the Atlanta Falcons in week 3, a mistake which may have given the team the lead and a possible win. However, it looks like things are looking up for the beleaguered running back.
Coach Norv Turner would put Mathews in the doghouse after his latest debacle. He was removed from the starting lineup for the team’s next game and replaced with fellow running back, Jackie Battle. The goal of the risky move was less of a demotion and more to spur Mathews into improving his game and reducing his fumbles, particularly with the game on the line.
It looks like the tactic may have worked. Mathews ended up with only one carry less than Battle, but he ran for more yards. Coach Turner wanted to teach him a lesson and he responded splendidly Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, Battle was still number one on the team’s depth chart just like in the week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but Mathews had 12 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown. He also averaged 6.7 yards per carry in the game. Mathews was nearly impimportant in the air gaining 59 receiving yards, averaging 9.8 yards per catch with the longest gain being 14 yards. It was one of his finest performances of the season and the Chargers agreed.
Turner had this to say about his running back:
I was really excited about the way that Ryan played. One of the things when you’re playing a defense like New Orleans is that it’s an eight-man front, it’s blitzing and it’s going to dial it up pretty good and give you a lot of different looks. Sometimes running in those eight-man fronts can be difficult.
Overall, the Chargers running backs were very impressive against the Saints. Mathews may have had a complete change in production from previous weeks, touching the football 18 times throughout the game rushing as well as impressive catches from quarterback Philip Rivers. He finished with 140 yards combined and the rest of the Chargers backs contributed 31 touches and 230 yards.
I don’t know that you’re going to get that production every week but I’m excited about the production that we got from our backs in the running game and in the passing game. Some people misinterpret the touches and the runs. We want to run the ball, but some of those early screens were a lot more effective than running up inside into an eight-man front.
The Chargers will take on Denver Broncos and Quarterback Peyton Manning next at home under the lights of Monday Night Football. Tickets for the game may be purchased by logging onto www.CHARGERS.com, calling 1-800-745-3000 or visiting the Chargers Ticket Office located at Gate C at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers’ ticket office is open weekdays 8-5 pm and Saturday 10-4 pm.