Final Word: Mathews and Woodhead key to San Diego Chargers success

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

A month and a half after pleading for the San Diego Chargers to use their running backs more, the team is 9-7 and headed to the playoffs. Were Mathews and Woodhead the cause of the late surge?

I'm sorry. This might be annoying but I'm super proud of finding this stat, so we're going to revisit it.

On November 15, I wrote:

When Ryan Mathews gets 15+ touches, the 2013 Chargers are 4-3.

When Danny Woodhead gets 15+ touches, the 2013 Chargers 1-2.

However, when their powers combine.....

When Mathews and Woodhead combine for 30+ touches, the 2013 Chargers are 4-0.

A lot of the initial response to this was that it was the same as those claiming that the team would win more if they would just RUN MOAR. I don't think of it that way. I viewed it a little more like using your most talented players.

There are about 70 offensive plays run, on average, by the San Diego Chargers in any given week. When Woodhead and Mathews are the focus for the offense on close to half of those plays, it's usually more successful than when the offense is trying to force the ball to Vincent Brown or Antonio Gates. It's also a sign that they're playing a shorter offensive game rather than trying to throw the ball down the field.

This is why it's not carries. Actually, let me stress that again. "Touches" are different from "Carries". In fact, Danny Woodhead has almost as many catches as he does carries this year, and both count as touches.

My point isn't a strategic one, it's one of personnel. Woodhead and Mathews are arguably the two best playmakers on the offense, with Keenan Allen being the only real threat to that argument, and I wanted them to get the ball more and be a larger part of the offense. That's how I found the stat in the first place.

Which brings me to our updated numbers, finals for the end of the regular season:

When Ryan Mathews gets 15+ touches, the 2013 Chargers are 9-5.

When Danny Woodhead gets 15+ touches, the 2013 Chargers are 1-2.

When Mathews and Woodhead combine for 30+ touches, the 2013 Chargers are 8-0.

8-0! This is why, during games, I now watch the box score and count to 30. San Diego is 1-6 in games when those two combine for less than 30 touches, with the lone win needing a last-second touchdown pass in Kansas City.

Next Sunday, with the Chargers in Cincinnati, pay attention to the touches and how large a part of the offense the two running backs are playing and how Ken Whisenhunt balances playing time for each of them. It could help shape which team will win the game.

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