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Melvin Gordon gives Chargers a bit of a spark

Third-year running back takes pride in pushing himself

Off to a miserable start, the Los Angeles Chargers were in need of encouragement. Melvin Gordon made sure they received it.

The third-year running back had his first big game of the season last week against the New York Giants in a matchup of winless teams. The Chargers closed well and rallied for a 27-22 road win. Gordon teamed with quarterback Philip Rivers on the go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. After four consecutive losses to open the season and five straight to close the previous one, Gordon and the Chargers finally had reason to celebrate again. Now, Gordon is determined to build on their first bit of momentum.

“You just want to keep it up,” Gordon said this week. “Yeah, it wasn’t a great start. But as long as you’re still playing, you have a chance to get it turned around. You just have to keep working.”

Coming off a Pro Bowl season, Gordon is one of the main reasons the Chargers still have hopes of salvaging the season. He’s an every-down back who’s equally adept catching passes out of the backfield as he is running between the tackles.

The Giants can attest to that.

Running back Melvin Gordon (No. 28) of the Los Angeles Chargers rushes against the Denver Broncos in the first half of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sept. 11 in Denver.

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

He rushed for a season-high 105 yards on 20 carries (a 5.3-yard average) in Week 5. Although his longest gain was 16 yards, Gordon ran efficiently and productively from start to finish. Gordon also had a game-high six catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown put the Chargers in unfamiliar territory: in position to win late in a game.

Trailing 22-17 in the final quarter, the Chargers got moving. On third-and-9 from the Giants’ 10-yard line, Gordon came out of the backfield and caught a short pass from Rivers, quickly turning upfield and reaching the end zone to help San Diego take a 24-22 lead with 3:04 to play.

The Chargers added a field goal to secure their first victory since Week 12 of the 2016 season and boarded their cross-country flight with a 1-4 record. The Giants dropped to 0-5.

Granted, the Chargers have only one more victory than the Giants. There’s just something about getting that first one.

“Man, we really needed that,” Gordon said. “We were feeling like we had good practices. Guys have been working hard. So you just want to get [positive reinforcement]. It felt good to have all the work wind up in something good.”

Last season, Gordon was really good.

He rushed for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns. Gordon added another 419 yards on 41 receptions with two touchdowns.

This season, he had some solid moments in the first four games. Last week, however, Gordon delivered his first big show.

Frustrated by his early lack of productivity, Gordon “went back and reviewed everything I was doing. When your team is losing, you think, ‘How can I contribute more?’ You look at what you can do to fix it.”

Gordon takes pride in pushing himself.

Melvin Gordon (No. 28) of the Los Angeles Chargers looks on during the first half of a game against the Miami Dolphins at StubHub Center on Sept. 17 in Carson, California.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

He prepares diligently in the offseason, hoping to achieve longevity in a league whose initials, players often tell you, stand for “Not For Long.” Gordon talks often with tight end Antonio Gates, a sage 15-year veteran.

“You love the game. You want to play the game for as long as you can. You want to reach the Hall of Fame and do all of those things,” Gordon said. “But talking with Gates about it, he tells me you really just have to focus on each week, each game.

“That’s what he did. Then, all of a sudden, he looked up one day and had 15 years in the league and is still playing. There’s so much you can’t control. But what you can control is everything you do to try to be your best.”

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at The Undefeated. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.