CARSON >> Melvin Gordon had his best game of the year on Sunday. Now, the Chargers need him healthy enough for an encore.
The third-year tailback was one of the bright spots in a 24-10 loss to Kansas City, turning 17 carries into 79 yards and a touchdown. He racked up nearly all of those numbers in a strong first half: six runs of at least 9 yards, including an 11-yard scamper that represented his team’s lone trip to the touchdown.
It was a promising performance — especially considering that the former first-round pick had walked into StubHub Center averaging just 2.5 yards per carry.
“Felt pretty explosive,” Gordon said. “Going in the right direction.”
But the Chargers don’t have much to celebrate after falling to 0-3 for the first time since 2003. Their long list of concerns includes Gordon, who sat out nearly half the game with a knee injury — a potentially troublesome sign for someone who underwent microfracture surgery in early 2016.
The 6-foot-1 back stayed in the locker room for the first few minutes of the second half on Sunday, and spent the rest the third quarter on the sideline.
He re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, but didn’t make a major impact. On the Chargers’ first offensive snap of the quarter, he lost a yard on a pitch. Four minutes later, he ran to the left for a 2-yard gain.
“He came out and was cold,” said Coach Anthony Lynn. “He eventually worked himself back into the game but the knee did slow him down some.”
“I just landed awkward,” Gordon said. “I’m fine.”
Backup running back Branden Oliver, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon, ran for 16 yards on five carries in the fourth quarter.
Lynn said he would likely give Gordon a rest day this week, but was hopeful that the Pro Bowler would be healthy for a Week 4 game against the Eagles.
Still, the 24-year-old’s resurgence was a good sign for a team that had entered the weekend with one of the league’s most anemic rushing offenses. Through their first two games, the Chargers had averaged just 54 yards on the ground, worse than every other NFL team except the Giants (35).
This was stunning for two reasons. They had one of the best young backs of the league in Gordon, who had 1,416 yards from scrimmage last season despite missing three games with injury. And they hired Lynn, who spent most of his career coaching running backs.
“I look for run efficiency,” Lynn said last Monday. “If we run it efficiently, I’ll run it again.”
In a Week 2 loss to Miami, Gordon ran the ball just nine times for 13 yards. The team still got him the ball, but mostly on short screen passes: He set a career high with seven catches against the Dolphins, and tied another personal record with 65 receiving yards.
Right tackle Joe Barksdale (foot) and linebacker Hayes Pullard (knee) were inactive on Sunday. Barksdale had only missed one other game since signing with the Chargers in 2015. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Michael Schofield, a former third-round pick claimed off waivers three weeks ago.
Lynn said that Barksdale and Pullard were ruled out shortly before the game, and that both remain day-to-day in their recoveries.
Defensive end Jerry Attaochu was a healthy scratch after practicing all week. He was also inactive for the Chargers’ first two games, but had been limited by a hamstring injury.
Lynn names team captains on a week-to-week basis, and on Sunday, he made a repeat selection for the first time. Punter Drew Kaser was a captain for the second straight week, and was joined by right guard Kenny Wiggins, fullback Derek Watt, cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Tre Boston. ... For the second straight week, an anti-Spanos banner flew over StubHub Center before kickoff, reading in part: “FREE THE CHARGERS. BRING EM BACK TO SD.”