Chargers' change at OC leads to resurgent running game

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Time is short for Melvin Gordon.

After a two-month holdout that did not result in the new contract he desired, the workhorse running back for the Los Angeles Chargers started slowly upon his return to the team in late September.

Entering Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers, Gordon had averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. However, Gordon finally looked like himself against the team he grew up rooting for, finishing with 80 yards on 20 carries, including two touchdowns.

Gordon acknowledged that he ran a little more angrily and with more urgency on Sunday.

"I got to go get it," he said. "I only have seven games left, so I want to get these last games in.

"We've got to come out here and keep running. We ain't got time to be pussyfooting around. We've got to go get it. We're in a hole right now. We've got to win every game, so every carry means something."

Gordon also contributed three receptions for 29 yards. It was his sixth career game with at least two rushing touchdowns. The Chargers are 4-2 in those games.

"I felt the physicality of Melvin Gordon was there today," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "You saw him and at the 2-, 3- or 4-yard mark. If there was contact, he was delivering the contact. That is when he is rolling."

With new offensive coordinator Shane Steichen taking over playcalling duties for the first time after coach Anthony Lynn let go of Ken Whisenhunt last week, the move appeared to create a spark on offense, particularly with the running game.

Along with Gordon's big day, Austin Ekeler finished with 70 yards on 12 carries. Gordon and Ekeler finally created that 1-2 running back combination that was so effective for the Chargers last season.

"Shout-out to him," Ekeler said when asked about Steichen. "I thought he [called the game] well. He let us get into a rhythm, and he pushed us. He said, 'Hey, let’s run the ball.' If we get a first down, let's get on the ball, and we're going to call a play on the line. Let's not let them substitute or anything like that."

The Chargers had failed to gain more than 40 rushing yards the past four games entering Sunday's contest, but they finished with season highs in rushing yards (159) and rushing attempts (38).

"We established a run, and we committed to it," Lynn said. "Those guys, they started out that way at the beginning of the season. I knew they could do it. They did it last year. It's just giving them enough opportunities."

The highlight play for Gordon was hurdling Green Bay safety Chandon Sullivan on his longest run of the day, a 16-yard jaunt up the middle.

But perhaps the defining play for Gordon and the Chargers' offense was Lynn changing his mind near the end of the game after a Packers offsides penalty. Lynn chose to take a 19-yard field goal made by Michael Badgley off the scoreboard and put the offense back on the field on fourth-and-goal from 1 yard out.

The Chargers had struggled in goal-to-go situations this season, so Lynn wanted to make a point to his offense that he believes it can get it done in those situations.

Gordon, who was stopped short of the goal line twice two weeks ago in a loss to the Tennessee Titans, fumbling on the final play of the game, bowled his way through the Packers for an easy score.

"It just showed the confidence the coach has in us as a whole as an offense," Gordon said. "Believe it or not, that play right there makes a big difference. It's maybe a different game if we don't get that or if we just get the three [points]."