San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) tries to elude Denver Broncos free safety Darian Stewart (26) and linebacker Shane Ray (56) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
DENVER (AP) The only way to stop San Diego running back Melvin Gordon was by not letting him touch the ball.
Turns out, it was the Chargers who came up with that plan at the end of a 27-19 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
On four straight snaps at the Denver 2, the Chargers (3-5) called passing plays, leaving Gordon out of the mix in the quest for a touchdown that, combined with a 2-point conversion, could have sent the game to overtime.
Article continues below ...
Gordon finished with 111 yards – the first runner to crack the 100-yard mark against Denver's stingy defense since Kansas City's Jamaal Charles on Sept. 17, 2015. But because the Chargers lost, Gordon might be remembered as the player who sent Wade Phillips to the hospital when he collided with the defensive coordinator on the sideline in the second quarter.
''I'm really sorry about that,'' Gordon said.
Head coach Mike McCoy's explanation for why Gordon didn't touch the ball really wasn't one: ''We called the plays we did. We didn't finish them. We didn't score. It didn't work.''
And Gordon took the high road.
''You know, whatever they call is what they call. I'm OK with whatever they call,'' said Gordon, who rushed for 94 yards in a 21-13 win over Denver on Oct. 13. ''If someone makes a touchdown, then no one is talking to me about that right now. It's the call that was made. We've got to live with it.''
Quarterback Philip Rivers felt the same way. He said he didn't audible out of any running plays when they had first-and-goal at the 2 with 2:54 remaining.
''After the fact, you obviously go, `Shoot, maybe we should've run once or twice down there?''' said Rivers, who threw for 267 yards and two TDs along with three interceptions. ''But when you're going and you're in the heat of it, you feel like you've got a chance for us to score with what we called.''
Midway through the second quarter, Gordon was trying to chase down Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby during Roby's 49-yard interception return for a score when he said he was blocked into Phillips by Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
Gordon upended Phillips, and the back of the coach's head slammed against the ground. Medical personnel surrounded Phillips, and after about five minutes, he was secured to a backboard, then carted off the field.
''I didn't even know I hurt him,'' Gordon said. ''I didn't know it was me. I hope he's OK. … I couldn't stop. I was going too fast.''
Gordon didn't let the incident derail him, and got stronger as the game went along. San Diego's 2015 first-round draft pick averaged 4.8 yards on 20 carries. His longest run was 20 yards in the fourth quarter.
He wanted the ball at the end against Denver (6-2) – every player does in that situation, Gordon said.
''They trust those other guys as well,'' Gordon explained.
This is how San Diego's play calling went on that game-changing drive:
– Incomplete pass over the middle.
– Incomplete pass short right.
– Incomplete pass to Antonio Gates.
– Incomplete pass short left to Hunter Henry.
Ball back to Denver with 2:36 left.
And while the Chargers gained possession again, they couldn't do much against Denver's defense.
''I have all the faith in our quarterback and receivers, the rest of the line, the play calling. Sometimes, it doesn't go our way,'' San Diego offensive lineman Joe Barksdale said. ''But no one gave up. And I think that speaks more volumes than anything.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL