Gordon and Ekeler gives Chargers extra offensive dimension

CARSON, CA-There’s always a silver lining waiting to bust through every dark cloud. For the Los Angeles Chargers, that dark cloud is getting over the hump to finally defeat the Kansas City Chiefs. That hasn’t happened in a while. The Chiefs have defeated the Chargers in nine straight games, including Sunday’s 38-28 win at StubHub Center in Carson.

The bright side to that defeat was the play of running backs Melvin Gordon III and Austin Ekeler. If production is any indication, Gordon and Ekeler’s run-and-catch show against the Chiefs could be a barometer for the team to measure its success by for the rest of the NFL regular season.

That could be a pretty good gauge if the two players are able to exploit defenses down the line the way they attacked the Chiefs. While the headlines may flash the three scintillating touchdowns that Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill produced in the Chiefs’ victory, Gordon and Ekeler were just as effective in a different way for the Chargers.

Gordon topped 100 yards (102 yards on nine receptions) in receiving for the first time in his career and carried the ball 15 times for an additional 64 yards.

“You just have to make your plays,” Gordon responded to being asked about being more involved in the passing game. “That’s what it’s about; [being effective] any way you can get the ball. If you want to be elite and be in that category, by any means, you just have to do something with the ball.”

Chargers versus Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon III (28) produced nearly 200 yards in total offense from the line of scrimmage against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. Photo credit: George Laase

Ekeler caught five passes for 87 yards, including hauling in an acrobatic 13-yard touchdown. Ekeler also rushed the ball five times for 39 yards. Altogether, Gordon and Ekeler generated nearly 300 yards (189 yards receiving; 103 yards rushing) in total offense against the Chiefs.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn liked what he saw from his two running backs.

“I thought those two played well from what I could see from the sidelines,” Lynn said. “I thought they complimented each other really well and {we} had a nice rotation with those two.”

The versatility of the two running backs could afford quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers to have some big days offensively. Without the courtesy of several dropped passes, the Chargers would have surpassed the 600 mark (541) in total yards against Kansas City. Rivers wound up passing for 424 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs.

“The guys ran the ball like crazy up front,” Rivers said. “We couldn’t run the ball as much as we would like to because of where the score got there in the fourth quarter, we had to go. When you’re down three scores at one point and then you’re down two scores under five minutes, you have to throw it just about every snap. The running game was awesome. The guys up front did a great job and I thought Melvin and Austin ran hard. They’re two guys who are hard to tackle and they compliment each other very well. All in all, you saw how many guys are going to contribute and can contribute. [TE] Virgil [Green] had a big catch, [CB] Casey [Hayward] gets back in the mix, it has the chance to be a heck of a year. By no means has this game dampened any aspirations for the season. The only thing it guarantees is that we can’t go through the season undefeated. Other than that, everything is still out there.”

In 2017, Gordon was the dominant back for the Chargers, rushing for 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns. Gordon also hauled in 58 passes for 476 yards in 16 games. Ekeler, on the other hand, gained just 260 yards on the ground throughout the 2017 campaign. If the first impression of the Chargers-Chiefs matchup happens to be a lasting impression, Ekeler could get a lot more action this season than he did last year.

That seems to be okay with Gordon.

“We’ve been doing it all camp and that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Gordon said.

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