COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers have work to do after some head-scratching mistakes on offense over the weekend -- including four drops, two of which would have been scores --- but one thing that clicked for the Bolts was the running back tandem of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler.
The two combined for 292 yards from scrimmage in a disappointing, 38-28 loss the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener at the StubHub Center on Sunday.
Gordon finished with career-high 102 receiving yards, the first time he eclipsed 100 yards receiving in his four-year NFL career. The Wisconsin product also totaled 64 rushing yards.
Ekeler's 126 total yards from scrimmage was a career-high. He finished with 39 rushing yards and a career-high 87 yards receiving, including a 13-yard reception for a score.
"The running game was awesome," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "The guys up front did a great job and I thought Melvin and Austin ran hard. They're two guys who are hard to tackle and they complement each other very well."
Watching Gordon break a big run from the sidelines, Ekeler knew his turn would be next.
"It's like raising the bar," Ekeler said. "We want to go and raise the bar on each other. If Mel makes a big play, it's like 'All right,' I've got to go and make a big play, keep it at that same level.'"
Gordon's desire is to be the workhorse back for the Chargers this season. But he's willing to share some of the spotlight with second-year pro Ekeler.
"We've been doing it all camp and that's what we're going to continue to do," Gordon said.
The Chargers entered Sunday's contest missing tight end Hunter Henry, who began 2018 on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a right ACL knee injury in May. The Bolts brought back Antonio Gates to help filled the void, but the 38-year-old tight end was used sparingly.
Instead, Rivers looked to Gordon and Ekeler out of the backfield to attack the second level of Kansas City's defense.
"In practice we work on a lot of deep throws, but in the middle of the game when the rush is coming 100 mph, those little, easy throws are a way out, and we might run for an extra 10 yards," Ekeler said.
The Chargers finished with 123 rushing yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. That per-carry average was much better than the 3.8 per carry the team averaged last season.
"I thought those two played well from what I could see on the sidelines," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. "I thought they complemented each other really well and [we] had a nice rotation with those two."