The Chargers have been so much about Philip Rivers’ arm over the last 13 seasons.
On Sunday, they were more about Melvin Gordon’s legs.
“We haven’t had many days when we’ve run more than we’ve thrown,” Rivers said. “Those are fun. I’ll take those any time we can get them.”
Gordon finished with 18 carries for 132 yards and three touchdowns in the Chargers’ 38-14 victory at Cleveland.
Austin Ekeler had 60 yards on the ground and receiver Keenan Allen had 41 as the Chargers continually blasted holes in Cleveland’s defensive front and used misdirection across the formation to slow the Browns.
“They’re playing well and they’re playing as a group,” Gordon said of the offensive line. “They understand the scheme. … The harder we run, me and Austin, the harder they block. We’re only getting better.”
The Chargers finished with 246 yards rushing, compared to 215 yards passing. They picked up 15 first downs on the ground and seven through the air.
Gordon routinely bolted through open holes and proved difficult to tackle as he hammered his way to his second 100-yard game this season.
“I love the way he’s running,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I’m telling you, he’s inspiring our whole sideline.”
The lone blemish for Gordon came late when a potential touchdown pass deflected off his hands near the goal line and resulted in Rivers’ third interception this season.
Rivers said it “wasn’t a great throw,” explaining that the pass was a little high and thrown too hard.
Lynn had an emphatic opening statement Sunday.
“We made all of our damn kicks,” he said. “All the extra points, all the field goals. That’s an improvement.”
Michael Badgley was five for five on extra-point tries and converted his only field-goal attempt (44 yards) in his NFL debut.
He replaced Caleb Sturgis, who sat out the game because of a quadriceps injury.
“There would be something wrong with me if I wasn’t nervous for something like this, but it was good nerves,” Badgley said. “I was excited. It was fun to get the first game out of the way and get a great win. I’m excited for what comes next.”
Lynn said he wasn’t sure whether Badgley would remain the kicker or the Chargers would go back to Sturgis when he’s healthy.
Sturgis has missed four extra-point and three field-goal attempts this season. He was limited in practice last week but wasn’t officially ruled out until 90 minutes before kickoff.
“Right now, we’ll just go with the guy who’s healthy,” Lynn said. “When they’re both healthy, we’ll figure it out.”
The Chargers will spend the next four days in Cleveland before departing for London, where they’ll play Tennessee.
Rivers said the team’s work schedule was motivation enough to win Sunday.
“I was telling Melvin [Ingram] as we were coming off the bus, ‘We can’t lose this game and then stay here four or five days,’ ” he said, laughing. “I couldn’t think for anything much worse.”