Head coach Norv Turner surprised a lot of people Sunday afternoon when
“Everyone thinks it is to send the guy a message, but the best thing for us in the Kansas City game was to start Jackie Battle and give him and our offense a chance to get into some rhythm,” said Turner. “On a feel when it was the right time, we wanted to give Ryan the opportunity to be a part of it. As the game went on he became a big part of it. He understands the importance of taking care of the ball. He’s not negligent. I don’t think there is anyone that works any harder. He had a bad play in the Atlanta game but I do believe that we’re going to get past that.”
Simply put, Turner likes the combination of the two running backs. He feels their styles complement each other, giving the Chargers their best chance to win. It’s a plan he intends to use in the coming weeks, mixing and matching the duo depending on who they are playing.
“I think they had 30 carries between them,” said Turner. “I liked the mixture we had. Ryan came in on the screen and got a big play early. I think every week we’re going to look at what gives us the best chance to win. We’ll put a game plan together and try to implement it. Both guys obviously were effective in their own way.”
They certainly were, as Battle led the team in both carries (15) and receptions (four), while Mathews paced the club with 61 yards rushing. For Battle, he was just pleased to get the chance to do whatever it took to help the team win.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity,” he said. “I’m willing to do whatever is asked of me. I mean, I don’t think I had four catches in my whole career and then I had that many yesterday! So it kind of caught me by surprise, but I’m capable of doing that and whatever else they need.”
A very physical running back, Battle agrees with Turner that his bruising style of play meshes well with Mathews’ more finesse game.
“We really complement each other well,” said Battle. “We have two totally different running styles. He’s dynamic, and I’m a straight one-cut, downhill runner. But it’s a good change of pace when he’s in or when I’m in.”
One player who was very happy with the mix at running back was the guy handing the ball off to them,
“I know one thing, and that is he was fresh and flying around in the fourth quarter,” Rivers said. “He had some big carries and first downs. He caught a screen in the first drive for about a 15 yard gain which was big. I think that it was a nice mix of those two guys. I don’t know the exact carry total but I know they were both in double digits. Ryan probably ended up with more yards but it’s a good combination… I didn’t feel any lack of confidence from Ryan. He’s improving every day and you can’t overlook the fact that he was out for six weeks. This was his second game in and he felt a little more comfortable. That’s just natural. He played a big role in yesterday’s game.”If Sunday was a tell tail of how Mathews and Battle can work together, plan on seeing many more split carries between the two backs.