He isn’t sure exactly how long it will take for Los Angeles to truly feel like home for the Chargers.
However, Melvin Gordon does know he never again wants to experience the way his team started the season in its new surroundings.
“It sucks being 0-4 and walking around the facility and everyone’s swagger is just not the same,” Gordon told co-host Gil Brandt and me Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We wanted some change, so we knew we had to go in there and find a way.”
The Chargers did just that with last Sunday’s 27-22 road upset of the Giants. And they leaned most heavily on Gordon to carry the offensive load.
The third-year running back responded with his best game of the season, reaching triple digits on the ground for the first time in 2017 with 105 yards on 20 carries. Gordon was equally effective as a receiver with a team-high six catches for 58 yards, including two that went for touchdowns.
“It just wasn’t the O-line. I think everyone played a part,” said Gordon, who was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. “Everyone was just calmed down and focusing on their assignments, and they definitely helped open up some things for me.
“If you check the film, you’ve got receivers (like) Keenan (Allen) pancaking guys. They helped me out a lot.”
Gordon and the Chargers’ running game needed the boost. Los Angeles entered MetLife Stadium averaging 67.5 yards a game, which ranked 29th in the NFL, and 3.6 yards a carry.
Such figures were unexpected considering Gordon was coming off a breakthrough season in 2016 and new Chargers coach Anthony Lynn is a former NFL running back himself who places heavy emphasis on the rushing attack.
Keeping momentum in the running game will be key for Los Angeles in Sunday’s game at Oakland (2-3). The Raiders rank 25th against the run (124.6-yard average) and were gouged for 139 yards on 39 carries in last Sunday’s 30-17 home loss to the Ravens.
Gordon said he is drawing added motivation from what transpired in Week 15 last year between the Chargers and Raiders when the former was still playing in San Diego. Having suffered what proved a season-ending knee injury the previous game, Gordon watched from the sideline as raucous Oakland fans packed Qualcomm Stadium and provided their team a boost during a 19-16 Raiders victory.
“There’s a little tension there whether you like it or not,” Gordon said. “The fans are A-1 for them, and they talk that trash to us. When we walk in there, it’s us against the world.
“Our last game playing them in Qualcomm, I was hurt, but it just upset me that the whole stadium was blacked out. That just made me mad because there was nothing I could do about it at that point in time but just sit there and watch as a fan. It just took over our whole stadium. If that doesn’t fuel you up by itself, you really aren’t a Charger at heart.”
Raiders fans in Oakland during a game against the Chargers in 2016 ()
The Chargers now face a similar challenge in Los Angeles trying to cultivate an expansive and diehard fan base. Supporters of the opposing squad did a better job filling the 27,000-seat StubHub Center than the locals during the Chargers’ first three home games, all of which were losses.
That leaves Gordon and his teammates trying to overcome the lack of a true home-field advantage.
“You ask any player when you go out there: If you are locked in, you really don’t pay attention to the crowd at the time,” Gordon said. “We kind of get adjusted with loud music going on 24/7 (during practice) so when you put us in that type of environment we know how to handle it.”
The only way to change the home atmosphere is to put a consistent winning product on the field. Gordon’s performance will go a long way toward determining whether the Chargers can start turning that corner in 2017.
Alex Marvez can be heard from midnight to 2 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight ET Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
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