Time to start using Mathews more in running game

If there was one part of the Eagles offense that had some moderate success in Sunday night’s loss to the Panthers, it was the running game.

The Eagles tallied a total of 177 rushing yards for the game, primarily split between DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews.

Murray had 18 carries for 65 yards. Mathews touched the ball six times and gained 97 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown run.

There’s no question Mathews is the more explosive back. That’s just not Murray’s style. But Mathews has also proven to be the more consistent back, and the Eagles need to recognize that.

Put aside the other mistakes – the dropped passes, the questionable play calling – when it comes to the running game, Murray is facing his own personal challenge.

This has not been a successful season for the defending rushing champion in the NFL.

To Murray, this wouldn’t even be a talking point if the Eagles were winning games. At 3-4, Murray’s struggles are as profiled as Sam Bradford’s, though Bradford has clearly had the worst of the struggles.

You may look at Murray and Bradford and say their cases aren’t relative because Murray doesn’t have an offensive line, dealt with an injury in Week 3 or because Bradford doesn’t line up under center which impedes Murray’s running style.

While all of that is true, some of Murray’s struggles, like Bradford’s, come from his own decision-making. There are times when Murray clearly misses his chance to turn up field and gain positive yardage.

Watching Murray this year explains so much about why LeSean McCoy had his own little battle with struggles last season. You can be the best running back in football, but if you aren’t quick with your decisions or miss your opportunity, you will not gain positive yards or get the first downs necessary to complete scoring drives.

And when this happens, you abandon the run.

Chip Kelly used Murray and Mathews on a total of 24 rushing attempts. Bradford threw the ball 46 times. Due to a deficit and the lack of truly getting the running game going until Mathews broke the touchdown run, the Eagles stuck to the pass.

When you look at the struggles Bradford is having or the Eagles receivers are having, you look at the schedule and wonder what has taken so long in realizing a problem. It’s Week 7. Little miscues, indecisions and lack of fundamentals are no longer viable excuses.

Perhaps the best thing about the bye week will be the mental break. The Eagles can’t lose a game due to missed opportunities and a lack of execution this week.

A mental reboot is desperately needed to. The week after, the Eagles will play with their season on the line, because a third loss within the division through Week 9 will certainly be too much to overcome.

In that game, even with Murray making a return to Dallas, Mathews should see the ball more, use his explosiveness and decisiveness to take charge on the ground.

It hasn’t worked for Murray this season and Mathews seems to be in the right place at the right time for so many of his rushing attempts. It’s time to reward him for that. 

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.