Melvin Gordon Addresses his Costly Fumble in Broncos' Week 1 Loss to Titans
For much of the offseason, debate has raged over GM John Elway’s ambitious move to make running back Melvin Gordon a Denver Bronco to the tune of $16 million over two years. In his Broncos debut on Monday night — a 16-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans —Gordon’s costly first-half fumble on gave skeptical fans enough ammunition to validate their views that Elway’s decision to splurge on the two-time Pro Bowl back was misguided.
Ever since Gordon made the switch to the Orange and Blue, he has faced the uphill task of convincing Broncos Country that he is worthy of such a big-dollar contract, especially with hometown hero Phillip Lindsay waiting next in line for a new deal.
Simply getting on with the task at hand and contributing to the offense received a setback when Gordon coughed up the ball early under the glare of the national TV audience. The 27-year-old ex-Charger showed considerable mental fortitude to bounce back, ultimately leading the team in rushing with 78 yards on 15 carries and scoring his first touchdown as a Bronco.
“We definitely got things we need to grow on," Gordon said post-game talking about the Broncos' offense. "When you lose, the mistakes, it’s kind of, pretty microscopic, so a little frustrated about the fumble."
The Broncos' offense flashed spurts of explosiveness but costly mistakes, like Gordon's fumble, rookie wideout Jerry Jeudy's two crucial dropped passes, and two Drew Lock overthrows that would have been touchdowns, doomed the Broncos. Still, despite three missed field goals by Titans' kicker Stephen Gostkowski and the defense failing to get one final stop on Tennessee's final possession at the end of the game, Gordon believes the efforts of Vic Fangio's unit would have been enough to win, had the offense capitalized on its opportunities earlier in the game.
"I think our defense played pretty well," Gordon said. "They made enough stops. We had plenty of opportunities. You know with the kicker today, having a pretty bad day, but we have to make it count. We have to convert on third downs, and we didn’t do that today.”
Gordon’s co-starter in the backfield — Lindsay — suffered a toe injury in the first half, forcing him to the sidelines for the duration of the game. Following the Broncos' bitter 16-14 loss, Gordon maintains his ambition for the running back duo to bring a unique dynamic to the field moving forward.
“We have two different types of styles so it kind of keeps guys unbalanced and then when you put us both in, it just makes us more dynamic as an offense," Gordon said post-game. "So, it’s just even harder to stop. That’s what me and Phil both bring to the table when we’re in.
While it’s frustrating that Lindsay’s turf toe problem might put their unique partnership on ice for this week’s visit to face the Pittsburgh Steelers, the hope long-term is the injury will prove to be minor. As a result of Lindsay missing time, backup Royce Freeman will see increased playing time and the Broncos may be forced to promote practice-squaders like LeVante Bellamy or Jeremy Cox on gameday.
Gordon will continue to do the bulk of the heavy lifting and while it’s something he feels comfortable doing, he also freely admitted he isn’t that used to it.
“I came from a place where I was getting complemented and I handled it well,” Gordon said. “It’s what I’m used to in fact. I’ve talked to Phil... I think he’ll be out there sooner than later. He’s a competitor so he’s going to do whatever it takes to kind of get back out there and help this team out. We’ll be good, but we are definitely going to be in good hands while he is gone.”
Already there is strong injury evidence to point to Elway’s decision to retool at the running back spot was done with some considerable foresight, despite the hefty price tag attached to doing so. Furthermore, many fans were less than convinced that the chemistry of Gordon and Lindsay being listed co-starters would even work, even though much of the NFL employs a running-back-by-committee approach.
Judging by Gordon’s comments, he sees the best scenario for Broncos' success lying with both backs working together and getting opponents off balance. All of which means the crucial importance of getting Lindsay off the treatment table and back in the lineup will only intensify.