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Sun., Mar. 08, 2015 1:30 PM PDT
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Ryan Mathews a Real Bright Spot Again for Bolts
The Chargers answered the Bears first scoring drive with a heavy helping of Ryan Mathews.
The running back took four straight carries to start the Chargers’ second drive in Chicago. And with each tote, the four-year veteran showed why he is a pivotal player in head coach Mike McCoy’s offense. His nine carries for 45 yards provided a calming influence for the offense and had McCoy raving about the fourth-year running back after the game.
“The way Ryan Mathews ran the football today was outstanding,” he said. “We ran the football efficiently tonight, and I think the way he’s running the football that’s what we’re looking for…The future is now. We’re not worried about the past. This game’s now behind him and we’ve got to build off it, I talked to him a couple of times during the game (that) the way he was running the football, that’s the way he’s got to be. We’re not looking back. We’re going to keep moving on and he’s going to get better every week.”
The Chargers offense was literally in transition before Mathews came in for those four crucial carries. Philip Rivers had just thrown his first interception – a diving grab by Bears safety Chris Conte that took advantage of some rough coverage on rookie Keenan Allen. But Donald Butler got the ball right back on a pick of his own, giving the offense just one play off before their next series.
Rivers and the offense caught its breath and let Mathews do the work. McCoy dialed up some of the same plays his back averaged over six yards-per-carry running the week before.
The first play squeezed Mathews between right guard Jeromey Clary and rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker. It started as a safe handoff from the Chargers’ own six yard line and ended with a very solid gain on first down. Mathews lowered his pads and powered ahead for five yards before Bears end Shea McClellin could haul him down
Rivers immediately spotted something. He rushed his offense back to the line and ran Mathews to the right again. This time, he sped by McClellin and wasn’t tackled until Bears safety Major Wright tackled him 11 yards later at the Chargers’ 11 yard-line.
Rivers wasn’t about to change up the no-huddle approach. He handed off to Mathews on the left for the second time in 30 seconds for his third handoff. Defensive end Corey Wooton minimized the gain on first down and kept Mathews to a three-yard pickup.
That didn’t stop McCoy and Rivers from calling Mathews’ number for a fourth straight time. In the hurry-up again, he gave Mathews an off-tackle handoff left. Mathews lowered his pads again and showcased his power for a gain of five – setting up a manageable third and two.
Mathews advertised his worth to the Chargers’ attack on those four handoffs. On the very next play, Rivers dropped back after faking a handoff and took advantage of the Bears linebackers that crept up to play the run. He found Antonio Gates for 15 yards and another first down.
For all those reasons and more, Rivers has been impressed by Mathews this preseason.
“He’s running great and we’ve got to keep him rolling,” he said. “Obviously the offensive line’s blocking well. They give him some creases and he’s running hard.”
Mathews himself is quick to credit the five men up front for giving him running lanes to take advantage of.
“The O-Line is doing a great job just opening up holes and I’m just running behind them,” he said. They’re doing a good job of coming down and getting an extra guy in the box. So I’ve just got to make the play….You get used to in a game situation how the linemen block and how they handle situations. They’re doing a great job and I just have to do the easy part. Just pick a hole and run through it. And that’s what I’m doing. So I’m going to take it one day and one game at a time and just do as much as I can to help the team. “