CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Ryan Mathews had one carry in the final 25 minutes of the Eagles' 27-16 loss to the Panthers on Sunday night.

On the running back's two previous rushes, he ran for 22 yards midway through the second quarter and for a 63-yard touchdown with 9 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter.

And yet Mathews was given just one rushing opportunity the rest of the way, when he gained a yard on the first play of the fourth quarter. DeMarco Murray, meanwhile, had seven carries for only 25 yards during the same span.

How is that possible?

Chip Kelly is the head coach, and yet he maintains that it is running backs coach Duce Staley who is responsible for divvying up snaps during the course of a game. But what has become abundantly clear over the first seven games of the season is that Mathews is a better option out of the backfield than Murray.

"Duce is running the rotation," Kelly said. "Some of it is we're calling pass plays. [Mathews] was in there for a few passes."

Overall, Mathews rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on six carries (16.2 average), while Murray finished with 65 yards on 18 tries (3.6 average).

"There's only one ball," Mathews said. "We've got three good running backs."

Here's one more obvious observation about the shortcomings of the Eagles offense: The receivers couldn't catch a cold. There were seven drops against the Panthers - two apiece for Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff; one by Miles Austin; another by running back Darren Sproles; and, finally, tight end Zach Ertz had one.

But Ertz (five catches for 63 yards) caught everything else headed his way.

Sam Bradford by no means had a stellar evening. But his receivers continue to let him down. Matthews' first drop clanged off his hands and was intercepted.

Ryan Mathews, meanwhile, can't get more playing time. On his last carry of the second quarter - with some seven minutes left before the half - he ran for 22 yards. But Murray was on the field for the Eagles' next series, and rushed two times for 4 yards, and the Eagles went three-and-out.

Mathews didn't get another carry the rest of the half. In the third quarter, Murray got the call on the Eagles' first possession. He rushed two times for 5 yards. But on second down, Mathews substituted in and ripped off a 63-yard run for a touchdown that narrowed the Panthers lead to 21-13.

You would think that Staley would have called Mathews' number on the ensuing drive after Byron Maxwell had an interception. Murray was held to no gain on first down. The Eagles still picked up a first down, but on second down, Murray managed only 1 yard.

The Eagles eventually settled for a field goal.

Ertz, on the other hand, needs to be the focal point of the passing game.

If four of Bradford's dropped passes are caught in the first half, it could have been a different story in the first half. He threw slightly behind Jordan Matthews on the Eagles' second drive of the game, but the ball bounced off the receiver's hands and into the arms of the waiting Colin Jones.

It would have been a difficult grab, but NFL receivers routinely make those plays. The same can't be said of Matthews' next drop. The Eagles faced a third down and nine early in the second quarter. Matthews ran a quick "out" route beyond the sticks, and Bradford's throw was on the mark, but Matthews couldn't hang onto the ball again.

But Matthews wasn't the only guilty party. Huff was a ball-dropping machine in limited action last season, so it was somewhat surprising that he had a clean record through the first six games. But it was only a matter of time.

A series after Matthews' second drop, the Eagles had another third down - this time in Panthers territory. Bradford threw to Huff over the middle well past the first-down marker. It was a low throw, but, again, NFL receivers make those catches all the time. Huff didn't and came up motioning for a penalty.

It got worse.

Bradford threw into a tight window in the back of the end zone on third down after Maxwell's pick. Huff was the intended target, and he got his hands on the high pass. But he couldn't snare the ball. Repeat, rinse, and cycle: It would have been a tough catch, but NFL receivers come down with those throws game-in, game-out, week-in, week-out.

Huff doesn't have those type of downfield skills - at least not yet. He's a running back the Eagles have hoped would develop into a receiver. For some inexplicable reason, Kelly called Huff's number on third down in Carolina territory in the fourth quarter.

He's a threat with the ball in his hands, but the screen pass to Huff went nowhere. Caleb Sturgis attempted a 50-yard field goal, but he missed, and the Eagles came away without any points.

That unfortunate series of events was on the coach. And so is the lack of game-breaking receivers on the outside.

But that's Kelly the general manager's fault. This isn't revisionist history. The Eagles released DeSean Jackson and allowed Jeremy Maclin to walk via free agency. They replaced them with three draft picks who haven't lived up to where they were selected.

It's still early for Nelson Agholor, who missed his second game in a row with a high-ankle sprain. He has ability and could develop into a premier receiver. The Eagles would simply take a competent starter.

But they have Ryan Mathews, and they have Ertz. Isn't it obvious they need more playing time?

"I think the coaches will analyze that, and I think there may be some changes made during the bye week," Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said. "I think Chip's good at analyzing that, and we'll make the adjustments that need to be made."

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane