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Sun., Mar. 08, 2015 1:30 PM PDT
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Despite Outcome, Mathews Has Big Performance
The first six plays started with the ball snapped from center. They ended in the hands of Ryan Mathews for positive yards and first downs -- and set the tone for the day to come for the Bolts' running back.
The running game revival is on in full for the Chargers. At its center is Mathews, who carried the ball 19 times against the Dolphins for 127 yards and added two catches for 16 yards.
That's the third 100-yard performance of the season for Mathews. And that's the most rushing yards he's tallied in almost two years -- when he broke out against the Broncos for 137 yards on Nov. 27, 2011.
Mathews provided much more than an impressive stat line, though. When his number wasn't called, he was asked to chip dangerous pass rushers like Cameron Wake and help keep Philip Rivers upright. And when his number was called, he gave the Bolts offense the explosive play that mostly eluded them all game.
No play was needed more than Mathews' 51-yard scamper to end the third quarter.
The Bolts regained possession hungry to make up ground after the catch-and-run touchdown by Charles Clay. Nick Novak kicked a field goal, the defense gave the offense the ball back, and Philip Rivers handed the ball to Mathews on the first play of a drive that promised to close the gap even more.
Mathews handled the rest. He darted off tackle, hit momentarily behind the mammoth frame of D.J. Fluker, and slipped around the edge. He wove his way around the left sideline, and then put on the afterburners, stopping only when Dolphins safety Rashad Jones chased him down 51 yards after the fact.
When the Dolphins kicked another field goal, Mathews showcased his blocking to help the Bolts get back in the game.
With 7:50 left in the game, Rivers dropped back but faced a group of Dolphins pass rushers breaking free up the middle. Mathews chipped one to give Rivers more time, and then swung left as an emergency option. A defender hung back to stay with him -- and Rivers took advantage of the open space that defender vacated to find Ladarius Green for 35 yards.
Intentional or not, Mathews was involved in nearly every big gain the Bolts posted on Sunday. The end result wasn't a victory, but Mathews' play gives the Bolts a more diverse and dangerous offense going forward.