Philip Rivers began the game by completing his first 25 passes to set an NFL single-game record.
The Chargers scored 45 consecutive points, their most points in a game since 1969.
They went from bungling against Denver to dominating against Arizona, winning 45-10 in a game that wasn’t even that close.
Yet, afterward, there was concern for running back Melvin Gordon and the offense’s immediate future.
“With Mel, man, we’re hoping it’s not as bad as it seems,” running back Austin Ekeler said. “He’s a beast. He’s a big part of our offense right now. Our thoughts are with him.”
Gordon, who leads the Chargers in rushing and is second in receptions, suffered a right knee injury early in the third quarter.
He left and did not return, instead hobbling into the locker room as his teammates finished off the Cardinals.
The severity of the injury remained uncertain after the game, coach Anthony Lynn saying only that Gordon would be evaluated further Monday.
Losing the fourth-year back would be significant, particularly with the Chargers preparing for the toughest stretch of their schedule.
Trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013, two of their next three games are in Pittsburgh and Kansas City, where the weather figures to be chilly and running the ball vital.
“It’s going to be major,” receiver Keenan Allen said of the possibility of having to replace Gordon’s production. “Definitely gotta step up and fill in those hard-nosed yards he’s been getting.”
Gordon sat out a game last month because of a hamstring injury. He was limited in practice leading up to this game because of soreness in his left knee. The Chargers listed Gordon as “questionable” by week’s end.
But he started and was running well, scoring twice in the second quarter and accumulating 61 yards in 10 carries. He also caught two passes.
The injury occurred on the opening possession of the second half on a trick play that resulted in Gordon running a reverse.
It began with Rivers tossing to Ekeler, who was sweeping to the right. Ekeler then lateraled to Gordon coming in the other direction.
Lineman Robert Nkemdiche went low and cut down Gordon, who remained on the ground for a short time and was attended to by medical personnel before limping off the field on his own.
“That’s a play we’ve had in for a long time,” Lynn said. “We’ve been trying to get it called in a game. Melvin loves the play.”
The fact it was called with the Chargers leading 28-10 brought into question the decision to run something relatively risky under the circumstances.
“We weren’t taking our foot off the gas pedal,” Lynn said. “It’s a play where we get him around the perimeter he might be still running. But they made a heck of a play and hit us in the backfield.”
Gordon began Sunday eighth in the NFL with 741 yards rushing. He was averaging 5.2 yards per carry, which puts him slightly ahead of the Rams’ Todd Gurley, a strong candidate for most valuable player. Gordon also had 42 catches for 448 yards.
In the second quarter, Gordon eclipsed 1,200 yards from scrimmage for the third consecutive year. He is the only player in the league who has topped the 1,200-yard mark and scored at least 10 touchdowns in the last three seasons.
“Hopefully what happened here is not serious,” Lynn said. “But if he has to miss some time, you know, he’s a starting running back in this league. If you can get him for 14, 15 games, that’s pretty good. His durability has been pretty good this year.”
Gordon’s loss was the only even remote setback on an afternoon when Rivers was all-time impressive and the Chargers thoroughly eliminated the aftertaste of their 23-22 loss to Denver at StubHub Center.
After completing his first 25 passes, Rivers finished 28 for 29 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Williams caught two of the scoring passes and Allen had one.
“It was unbelievable,” defensive end Joey Bosa said. “I made a three-second attempt to get an ‘M-V-P’ chant going on the sideline for Philip. But nobody was listening, so I gave up on that.”
The Chargers started sluggishly, with the Cardinals scoring on their first two possessions to take a 10-0 lead.
From there, the Chargers assumed command.
The victory, the Chargers’ seventh in eight games, lifted them to 8-3. They have a two-game lead over Baltimore and Indianapolis for the AFC’s top wild-card spot.