Ryan Mathews on fumble vs. Lions: 'I just messed up'

Ryan Mathews on fumble vs. Lions: 'I just messed up'

DETROIT — Ryan Mathews didn’t need to fight for extra yardage. He didn’t need to battle the Lions’ defense. He didn’t need to be Superman.

All he needed was to hang onto the football.

“I just f----- up,” Mathews said. “I gotta get better in a situation like that. I can’t let my teammates down. I’ve got to get better. I just messed up.”

Mathews was disconsolate and appeared near tears as he stood in his locker in the visiting locker room at Ford Field after the Eagles’ first loss this year (see Instant Replay).

His fumble on a 3rd-and-2 with 2½ minutes left in the game and the Eagles leading by two led directly to the Lions’ game-winning field goal.

Seven plays after Lions defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker recovered Mathews’ fumble at the Eagles’ 45-yard-line, kicker Matt Prater made a 29-yard field goal to give the Lions the lead (see 10 Observations).

“I can’t let my teammates down, especially in a situation like that,” Mathews said, his voice barely audible. “Just got to get better. Move on and watch the film and get ready for the next opponent.”

Mathews has never been a big fumbler. Coming into Sunday’s game, he had fumbled 19 times in 1,245 career touches — about one every 65 touches. He had lost just 12 of those.

But since 2012, he had fumbled just eight times on 793 touches — one every 99 touches.

“Everybody on the team has the utmost confidence in Mathews with the ball in that situation,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “It’s up to us to have his back.”

After the fumble, the Lions drove 34 yards in seven plays to set up Prater’s game-winning field goal.

“When my number’s called like that, I have to be smart,” Mathews said. “It hurts. It hurts a little bit. Just have to move forward.”

The Eagles led 23-21 and had that 3rd-and-2 on their own 45-yard-line. Mathews took a pitch right from Carson Wentz, but the Lions had the line of scrimmage stacked and it was quickly clear the Eagles weren’t going to be converting the third down.

But Mathews — as tough, aggressive and physical a back as you’ll find — put his head down when he was about to get hit by Lions cornerback Darius Slay and appeared to initiate contact while holding the ball just with his left hand.

The ball nearly bounced out of bounds but stayed in.

“People make mistakes all the time in this league,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “He’s going to be hardest on himself. I know he’s disappointed right now. But that one play didn’t lose us the game.

“I know he’s going to beat himself up, but the burden falls on us as an offense. We never should have been in that situation in the first place.”

Head coach Doug Pederson said he tracked Mathews down immediately after the game ended.

“I just grabbed him on the way up the tunnel and said, ‘Hey, keep your head up. A lot of football left, a lot of season left, (you’re) still a good player, don’t let one play define your season.’”

Darren Sproles led the Eagles with 45 yards on just five carries. Neither Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner had a carry Sunday.

Why use Mathews on that crucial third down?

“In that situation, felt like the bigger back in that running situation — and the way he ran on the first couple plays — just keep feeding him,” Pederson said. “He was doing a nice job.”

But actually, Mathews gained only two yards and one yard on his two runs on that possession.

Mathews hasn’t put up big rushing numbers yet this year. He finished the game with 75 yards of offense — 42 rushing and 33 with a touchdown receiving.

He averaged only 3.8 yards per carry and has yet to average 4.0 yards per carry in a game yet this year.

Out of 29 running backs with 40 or more carries, Mathews ranks 23rd this year with 3.2 yards per carry.

The Eagles, now 3-1, face the 3-2 Redskins Sunday in Landover, Md., and Mathews said his job now is to put the Detroit disappointment behind him.

“Just have to work hard,” he said. “Evaluate yourself and bounce back."

Mathews is the first Eagle to fumble in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter with the Eagles leading in a game they eventually lost since Oct. 31, 1999, when Duce Staley — now Mathews' position coach — lost a fumble with the Eagles up 17-10 against the Giants. 

The Giants eventually won 23-17 in overtime when Michael Strahan had a 44-yard pick-six against Eagles quarterback Doug Pederson.

“It hurts," Mathews said. "It stings a lot. But it’s over now. We can’t go back and replay it. Just got to move forward and get better.”

Eagles injury update: Corey Clement already out of his sling

Eagles injury update: Corey Clement already out of his sling

His right arm already out of the sling, Corey Clement moved his arms up and down and waved to a few news cameras gathered around his locker to show off his range of motion. 

The Eagles’ running back on Wednesday afternoon was breathing a sigh of relief. 

The shoulder injury Clement suffered on the opening kickoff in the second half Sunday is not serious and he says he’s day-to-day. The sling he wore for two days was just a precautionary measure from the Eagles’ trainers. 

I’m out of the sling already,” Clement said, “so I’m really trying to keep calm, realizing that it’s still early in the season. … I know I’ll be back out there soon.

Clement is among a group of Eagles — Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Dallas Goedert included — who were listed as day-to-day by head coach Doug Pederson earlier on Wednesday, even though none of them practiced. 

Wednesday’s injury report was an estimation because they held a walkthrough: 

Did not practice: Clement (shoulder), Goedert (calf), Jackson (abdomen), Jeffery (calf), Tim Jernigan (foot), Jordan Mailata (back) 

Limited: Derek Barnett (shoulder), Fletcher Cox (toe), Johnathan Cyprien (knee), Rudy Ford (hamstring), Nathan Gerry (knee, calf), Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee)

Full: Nate Sudfeld (wrist)

On the play where Clement was hurt, on the opening kickoff in the second half on Sunday night, he actually fumbled away the football. It was a bad time for a fumble because Atlanta took over and quickly scored a touchdown to go up 17-6.

“I was surprised the damn ball came out,” Clement said. “I was like, ‘how the Hell does that happen?’ And then I didn’t pay attention to how close I was to the ground, so that shook me up a bit.”  

When Clement first hit the ground, he was worried because he landed on his right shoulder, the same one where he tore his labrum back in 2011 at Glassboro High School. 

This injury, he said, isn’t serious at all. 

“I don’t even know what it is,” Clement said, before waving to the cameras. “I got full motion, I’m fine. I’ll be back out there soon, no worries.”

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Eagles actually getting an important player back for a change

Eagles actually getting an important player back for a change

The Eagles have been losing players at an alarming rate. 

They’re about to get one back.

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said Wednesday he expects to be back for the Eagles’ game a week from Thursday against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Grugier-Hill, who started 10 games last year and was having a tremendous training camp, suffered a left knee sprain while making a tackle on Jordan Howard at practice on Aug. 3.

Considering how bad the injury looked — Kamu was carted off the practice field — it would be huge if Grugier-Hill winds up only missing three regular-season games.

Grugier-Hill participated in Wednesday’s walkthrough (he was listed as limited on the injury report), the first time he’s done any sort of team drills since he got hurt.

He’s hoping to do some work on Thursday when the Eagles return to their regular practice mode.

I just know I feel myself how I move how I feel, you know your body better than anyone else,” he said. “I think I’m there. We’re just going to give it a couple more days just to make sure, but I’m good, I’m ready.

Most likely, Grugier-Hill would be able to play this Sunday if the Eagles didn’t have two games in five days. Since that would be too much for a guy coming off a knee injury, it makes sense to keep him shut down Sunday at home against the Lions and give him an extra few days.

Grugier-Hill, 25, was primarily a special teamer in his first two years with the Eagles, with one defensive snap in 2016 and 85 in 2017. That increased to 328 last year, or more than 20 per game.

He’s also played 873 special teams snaps the last three years, a team-high 686 the last two years.

If he plays against the Packers, Grugier-Hill will have come back from a pretty serious knee sprain in 54 days.

I’ve had injuries before where I definitely came back too early but I made it work,” he said. “It’s just kind of the desire to be back. You want to be back out there with the guys, but it’s a fine line. You have to be smart about it.

With Grugier-Hill out, Nigel Bradham – coming off a foot injury of his own -- has played all 130 defensive snaps in the Eagles’ first two games.

That’s too much.

Zach Brown has played 78 and Nate Gerry 22.

What role he has on special teams and how many reps he can get on defense remains to be seen.

But just having a quick, athletic linebacker on the field in some role has to help.

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