The short week made the odds long, and Melvin Gordon was unable to overcome such an obstacle.
About two hours before kickoff Thursday, the Chargers decided against having their top running back test his sprained right knee against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Instead, Gordon missed his third consecutive game and fourth overall this season because of injury.
Rookie Justin Jackson started against the Chiefs, backed up by another rookie, Detrez Newsome. The Chargers promoted Troymaine Pope from the practice squad for added depth.
Gordon, who sprained his medial collateral ligament Nov. 25 against Arizona, worked out at Arrowhead Stadium before pregame warmups and appeared to be moving well.
But after consulting with coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco, the decision was made to hold Gordon out for one more week.
Asked Tuesday about his status moving forward, Gordon indicated he was confident he could be ready to return Dec. 22 when the Chargers play Baltimore at StubHub Center.
“Short week kind of messes things up,” Gordon said prior to the team’s final practice before leaving for Kansas City. “Be a lot more confident with this game being on Sunday. …You don’t get a full practice with the guys and everything is like a walk-through tempo. You don’t really know what you can do until you get out there.”
Gordon missed a game Oct. 21 against Tennessee because of a hamstring issue. Entering Thursday, the Chargers were 3-0 without him.
The Chargers also were without Gordon’s primary backup, Austin Ekeler, against Kansas City. He was injured Sunday during a 26-21 victory over Cincinnati.
Ekeler suffered a bruised nerve in his neck. His status beyond Thursday remains unclear, although Ekeler was significantly limited in what he could do this week.
Gordon, whose disappointment Thursday was clearly visible as he walked off the field before the game, explained earlier that he understood the wisdom in being cautious, particularly this late in the regular season.
“It’s just being smart, man, because at the end of the day, it’s still a long season,” he said. “I’m pretty confident we’re going to the playoffs. I could wait until the playoffs and know I’ll be full-go. I want to be smart and not prolong this injury.”
The Chargers had a little fun at the expense of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who was either woefully unprepared or given bad information for a Thursday morning preview of the Chiefs-Chargers game on the show “First Take.”
Smith made a common mistake by saying he was looking at the “San Diego Chargers on offense,” but that was the least egregious of his errors.
He went on to say he was “thinking about Hunter Henry and the way he’s played this year,” and that the Chargers tight end would be “going up against Derrick Johnson, and I have to keep my eyes on that.”
Henry had knee surgery in June and has not played this season. Johnson, the former Chiefs linebacker, signed with Oakland in May and was cut in October.
Later, Smith apologized and tweeted that he was thinking of tight end Virgil Green “but mentioned Hunter because I was multi-tasking. That’s what happens when you’re doing a thousand things … That was a brain-lock moment.”
On the Chargers’ Twitter account, the team updated its injury report to say that “LaDainian Tomlinson, Dan Fouts and Lance Alworth are all OUT for tonight.”
Henry did work out on the field before the game as he attempts to return this season. He found Smith’s comments as baffling as everyone else did.
“What was he doing, man?” Henry said as he exited the field. “I thought he was reading off last year’s notes or something.”
Count to 10
Entering Thursday, the Chargers were 10-3 for the fourth time in franchise history and the first time since 2009. They had won nine of 10 after starting the season 1-2.
While the victory total was notable and one better than last year, Lynn wasn’t exactly impressed.
“Ten wins is not the magic number,” he said. “We’re not in the playoffs yet. When we get this organization back into the playoffs and we’re competing for a world championship then that will be something.”
The Chargers lost star receiver Keenan Allen to a hip injury in the second quarter. At the time, the team announced his return was questionable, but he did not play again.
Allen left one play after he nearly made a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch. He jumped, bobbled the ball and then fell on his hip as he cradled the ball in his arm. He slid out of bounds, however, before he had control of the ball.
After the next play, Allen went down on one knee, and then left the game.