The Chargers are going to play a familiar foe in the Denver Broncos on Sunday. When the defense lines up, they will face a familiar running back, whether it is number 25 or 30. One played for the Chargers for five seasons; the other has given them trouble every time they face him.
"They have one of the best tandems in the game," explained head coach Anthony Lynn. "Lindsay is a speed guy. Melvin's a power guy. So, we're very familiar with Melvin. He runs with great pad level, creates yards after contact. Lindsay, we got to contain him somehow. You got to set the edge and build the wall. But we know we have to slow those two guys down. They have ran the ball well against us last two times we've played them."
Now both backs have struggled so far this season to get it going. They both have had good and bad games. The Chargers don't want to be the opponent that gets them going.
"We talked about styles of running backs each week," said defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. "And it's two totally different styles."
The Chargers drafted Melvin Gordon in 2016, 15th overall. He struggled to get it going his sophomore season but played better when Lynn was hired. As Lynn said, he is a power back who will bully linebackers and defensive backs.
"Melvin, we have an idea about although I think he's really playing at a high-level right now he's running hard," explained Bradley. "Some of the things it's kind of unique to be able to go back and watch him now as a defensive coach."
Gordon has been running hard for the Broncos this season. He has had four games running for over 65 yards this season and has scored four touchdowns. He also ran for 107 yards against the Jets in week four.
"We already know what Melvin can do," said defensive end Joey Bosa. "He's a big strong runner, though. You got to make sure you wrap up and take him down by his legs. Going to try to get the ball out of his hand, see if we could cause some turnovers."
Bosa is right. They know the things Gordon can do, but they also know one of the back's weaknesses, and that is he will put the ball on the ground. He has done it three times this season already. Last season he had four for the Chargers.
Lindsay is questionable right now for Sunday's game because he sustained a concussion against the Chiefs. He is coming off two strong running performances. He had 101 yards against the New England Patriots two weeks ago and had 79 yards against the Chiefs last week.
"Lindsay, we got great respect for him," said Bradley. "He's a guy that can turn a little gain into a big gain in a hurry. He's done that before to us. It completely changes the angles, especially out of the middle of the field if he does breakthrough there."
Lindsay has hurt the Chargers in his three games against them since he entered the league in 2018. In 2018 he played them once, he ran the ball for 79 yards, scored two touchdowns, and the Broncos won. Last season, in the two games he faced the Bolts, he ran the ball for a total of 32 times, for 172 yards, one touchdown, and the Broncos swept.
"They're great runners," said Bosa. "We know if we get out of our gaps and we don't play assignment gap sound football, they're going to break it on us. So, I think it's just important for all of us to get pushed and just do our job this week. I think if we could shut down the run, we're going to have a good chance of getting after the quarterback."
The Chargers defense is 14th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, which is 113 a game. They have officially only given up 100-yard rushing games to Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones III and Jacksonville Jaguars back James Robinson. To their credit, they bottled up Clyde Edwards-Helaire for ten carries for 38 yards in week two and Alvin Kamara a couple of weeks back to 11 carries for 45 yards.
It seems like the defense has yet to put together a full four-quarter performance. Last week, they struggled in the second quarter. They were missing tackles and let Robinson run wild on them. He scored two touchdowns in that quarter.
"In that second quarter last week wasn't exactly what we hoped for," said Bradley. "But I thought we came back after halftime kind of regroup talked about some of the things we needed to take care of. And it was really just bringing the calls back to life. Now we got another challenge going to Denver, and it really comes back to us again, doing the things that we know we need to do and then performing at a high level."
Now for Gordon, how does it feel facing his old team?
"You don't want to be too overly high on emotion," said Gordon. "I think that's how you make mistakes and go out there and do too much, and you kind of put yourself in a bad position. So, I'm just taking like I do every week. Obviously, it's going to be cool to go up against some of the guys that I have built a great relationship with over the years. It's no different than any other team. We're going to prepare the exact same way and go out there and try to get this W."
This is a new test the Bolts face. They need to stop both backs from wreaking havoc on them. Both backs are very different in their running styles, so the defense will have to be vigilant.
"So, we have to have a really good idea who's in the backfield, the sound runs, they like when they're in the backfield, and how to approach them, but they're dynamic," said Bradley.