Ryan Mathews on fumbling: 'I don't think I have a problem'
Ryan Mathews said that he couldn't put his finger on why he's fumbled twice in two of the last three games, but the Eagles running back pointed to his refusal to be tackled as one possible reason for his late-game miscues.
"I'm not a guy that will go down on first contact," Mathews said on Wednesday. "In situations like that, it's better, instead of fighting for more yards, [to] just to go down. I just got to be more aware, and situational. Knowing what's going on."
Mathews coughed the ball up when the Eagles led the Lions with less than three minutes left three games ago. It proved costly as Detroit went ahead on the ensuing possession and eventually won.
He fumbled again with less than five minutes remaining in Sunday's game and the Vikings would score off the turnover, but the Eagles were comfortably ahead and held on. But Mathews' issues with ball security have certainly been worrisome for coach Doug Pederson.
"It's definitely a concern and we don't want to see it, especially in those situations – four-minute situations there at the end of the game," Pederson said on Monday. "We've got to continue to either find out if he's tired, where he's at at the end of the game; if we need to put Wendell [Smallwood] or Darren [Sproles] in there."
Sproles, Smallwood and Kenjon Barner have yet to fumble this season, although individually they don't have as many touches as Mathews. But the 29-year-old veteran hasn't been sure-handed over his seven-year career.
Mathews has 20 career fumbles, 13 of which he has lost, in 1,269 touches from scrimmage. That's a fumble every 63.5 touch. For comparison, the Eagles' last two lead running backs have been more reliable over their careers. DeMarco Murray has had 17 fumbles in 1,507 touches (88.6) and LeSean McCoy has had 18 fumbles in 2,219 touches (118.3).
To put Mathews' fumbles in even more context, he has been closer to Tiki Barber (a fumble every 52.1 touch), who was considered one of the more unreliable ball carriers of his era, than he has been to LaDainian Tomlinson (a fumble every 126.6), who was about as consistent as tailbacks go.
"We practice on ball security every day. I don't think I have a problem with it. I never thought I had a problem with it," Mathews said. "I know it's concerning, but [the coaches] see how hard I work at practice, how hard I take it. It's just something that I'm going to do for myself to get better."