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October 24, 2016

Ryan Mathews could lose carries to Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles

Eagles NFL
1024RyanMathews Michael Perez/AP

Somehow this turned into a fumble.

For the second time in three weeks, Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews fumbled in an absolutely inexcusable game situation, in which the Eagles had a lead and were trying to bleed the clock.

With 4:47 left in the fourth quarter and an 18-point lead during the Eagles' win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Mathews ran to edge on first down and had the ball popped out of his grasp by cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

That's not even much of a strip attempt. It's simply very sloppy fundamentals.

The Vikings would score a touchdown on the ensuing possession, although it was of virtually no consequence to the outcome of the game, fortunately for Mathews and the Eagles.

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Two weeks ago in Detroit, the Eagles had just a two-point lead with 2:41 to play when Mathews had a much more devastating fumble.

The Lions would of course drive for a lead-changing field goal and go on to win. Prior to the fumble, ESPN's "win probability" graph estimated that the Eagles had an 84 percent chance of winning.


In his time with the Eagles from 2015-2016, Mathews has fumbled five times on 173 carries, or once every 34.6 carries, which is an unacceptable figure in today's NFL.

Doug Pederson noted that Mathews could lose carries to Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles at the end of games as a result.

"It's definitely a concern, and we don't want to see that especially in those situations, those four-minute situations there at the end of the game," he said to reporters on Monday. "We have to find out if he's tired, where he's at, at the end of the game, if we need to put Wendell in there, or put Darren in there. We'll find out more about that, but by no means am I down on Ryan at all. We just have to make sure that he understands that he can't obviously do that and put ourselves in a situation where we're giving the ball back to the opponent."

It's probably not the worst idea to give some more of Mathews' snaps to the other backs throughout the entirety of the game, seeing as Mathews has been the least productive of the Eagles' backs, at least from the perspective of yards per carry:

Ryan Mathews 67 262 3.9 3 2
Darren Sproles 31 142 4.6 0 0
Wendell Smallwood 28 115 4.1 1 0
Kenjon Barner 16 92 5.8 1 0

By far, the No. 1 priority of a running back in a game-sealing situation is to hold onto the football. One fumble in that kind of situation is inexcusable. Two in three weeks is absolutely grounds for a benching.

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