Ryan Mathews, run game power Eagles past Falcons
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Ryan Mathews helped the Philadelphia Eagles play keep away from Matt Ryan and Atlanta's high-powered offense.
After disappearing from the game plan the past two weeks, Mathews ran like a guy who was tired of watching from the sideline. He had a season-best 108 yards rushing and two touchdowns while the Eagles piled up 208 yards on the ground.
The suddenly successful rushing attack allowed the Eagles to control time of possession by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, forcing the league's top-scoring offense to be spectators for much of the day.
The result was a 24-15 win over the Falcons on Sunday.
''We did what we needed to do to win,'' Mathews said. ''I know the linemen love run blocking. They played great. They did all they could to open up holes for us. We knew it was going to be a hard game. I said throughout the week if any of us got the ball, we were giving 100 percent.''
Mathews had just nine carries in the past two games while 33-year-old Darren Sproles took over as the featured back. But coach Doug Pederson made a point to establish the run behind Mathews right from the start.
Mathews carried seven times for 34 yards on the first drive, taking it in from the 4 for a 7-0 lead. He had a 5-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and also scored the 2-point conversion.
''I had confidence in Ryan to get the job done,'' Pederson said. ''His size and strength paid off.''
Rookie Wendell Smallwood chipped in with 70 yards rushing on 13 carries. Sproles ran twice for 19 yards and caught eight passes for 57 yards.
''We stepped up when we needed to,'' Smallwood said. ''We needed to establish the run game and we did.''
The running backs made it easier on Carson Wentz and the offense was more balanced – 39 pass calls, 37 run calls – than it's been in recent games.
''The backs did a great job and came up with hard, physical runs,'' center Jason Kelce said. ''Ryan had a great day. Even when we didn't block guys, he made guys miss.''
Wentz finished 25 of 36 for 231 yards. He connected six times with Jordan Matthews for 73 yards and six times with Zach Ertz for 55 yards.
''The run game was huge,'' Wentz said. ''It was good to get Ryan the ball, feed him the rock, and he was running angry. That makes my job easier.''
The Eagles (5-4) snapped a two-game losing streak and remained unbeaten at home in four games.
When Ryan, Julio Jones and Co. were on the field, Philadelphia's defense held them down. The Falcons came in averaging 33.9 points per game but didn't find the end zone until Ryan threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel in the fourth quarter to give Atlanta (6-4) a 15-13 lead.
Jones had 10 catches for 135 yards , but he couldn't make catches to extend drives twice down the stretch.
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