Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Chargers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at Qualcomm Stadium.
Raiders NT Pat Sims vs. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews
Tale of the tape:
Sims (90): 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, sixth season, Auburn
Mathews (24): 6-foot-0, 220 pounds, fourth season, Fresno State
San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is playing some of his best football this season. So is the man responsible for slowing him down.
Raiders nose tackle Pat Sims is also on the upswing, playing well despite playing more snaps than ever. Sims typically plays in the base defense, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of defensive snaps.
With Vance Walker down with injury last week, Sims played every snap but one.
“Pat’s done a nice job for us and specifically the last few weeks he’s played better,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s a big body inside, a physical player versus the run, and actually, because of Vance’s injury, we’ve played him more in nickel downs and he’s done a pretty good job of being able to get a little bit of pressure on the quarterback. Pat Sims has done a nice job for us.”
Sims was one of many veterans who signed a value deal hoping a solid season in Oakland would increase future income and playing time. Sims hadn’t exceeded eight starts in a season until 2013, and has been a factor inside even when the stats don’t show it. He has 36 tackles, a sack, five quarterback hits and 12 hurries. He’s missed just one tackle all season and according to Pro Football Focus, he has 17 stops that constitute an offensive failure.
It’s what doesn’t show up in the stats that will matter most in slowing Mathews, a power rusher who pounds through the first level and slices through the second. Sims’ primary job is to plug gaps, occupy blockers and allow others to bring Mathews down.
That’s been difficult for a rusher who, before this season, was both injury and fumble prone. Mathews has come into his own this season. He has 1,012 yards and five touchdowns despite often giving way to Danny Woodhead.
Mathews has been healthy all season, save an early-game concussion in the Oct. 6 game against the Raiders. The Raiders made San Diego one-dimensional that night with Mathews hurt. They’ve love to do so again by shutting Mathews down.
That won’t be easy. Mathews has 230 yards in his last two games.
“He runs very hard,” Allen said. “His biggest thing has been that he’s had some injuries. Obviously, now he’s healthy. He’s running the ball exceptionally well. Again, he’s a powerful back, runs with a lot of explosiveness. He runs tough, breaks a lot of tackles, and then he’s got the burst to take it the distance if he gets in the clear. We have a lot of respect for him as a running back and we know that’s going to be a tough match-up.”