Austin Ekeler kept Melvin Gordon on the Chargers sideline

Melvin Gordon, who changed his number this season from 28 to 25, warms up before the Chargers' game in Miami.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

For four games, Austin Ekeler has been the Chargers’ starting running back, leading the team in rushing yards and catching the second-highest number of passes.

In the team’s 30-10 victory Sunday at Miami, Ekeler set a career high with 18 carries. He finished with 23 touches for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

Now, two-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon is coming back and …

“I don’t expect his play to change any,” Gordon said of Ekeler. “I might steal a few reps.”

Gordon will do that and eventually, the Chargers hope, a whole lot more. After ending a nine-week contract holdout, he’s expected to make his season debut against Denver at Dignity Health Sports Park next Sunday.

Coach Anthony Lynn was warned about trying to use Gordon too much, too soon and managed to get through this game without playing him at all.


“His reps are going to be limited,” Lynn said on the back’s return to action. “I can’t put him in there and run him 30 times next week.”

Austin Ekeler and Ty Long help the wounded Chargers defeat the Miami Dolphins 30-10, taking advantage of an opponent in worse shape at the moment.

The return of Gordon will give the Chargers two dynamic backs who were among the best duos in the NFL the first half of last season. In Gordon’s absence, Ekeler proved himself worthy of more playing time, his six touchdowns leading the team.

“I’m a football player, so whatever you ask of me, whether you need me to run the ball, pass-block, play special teams, that’s my role,” Ekeler said. “I’m starting in that role this week.

“We have some guys banged up right now and we need all the help we can get. So my role right now might change because Mel is coming back. … Obviously, I want to be the starter, but I don’t need to be No. 1 on the depth chart.”

Gordon rejoined the team Thursday, was activated Saturday and dressed to play Sunday. Then the game began, he donned a baseball cap and tried not to think about how he had been told by coaches that he could play against Miami.

“It didn’t feel like I was playing all day,” Gordon said afterward, smiling. “Something don’t feel right. I’ll be out there next week.”

The Chargers defense recovered from wobbly first half to limit Miami to 36 yards and no points in the second half.

This was the first game he was healthy and watched from the sideline since last year’s preseason finale. Gordon said being relegated to spectator was made easier by the Chargers pulling away for a mostly stress-free win. He also praised Ekeler’s performance.

“He was out there slaving today,” Gordon said. “They got their money’s worth from him. Hopefully, I can help with that a little bit, keep him fresh.”

The only glaring lowlight for Ekeler this season came in Week 2 when he fumbled near the goal line in a 13-10 loss at Detroit.

“Other than the fumble, his mistakes have been minimal and his production has been huge,” Lynn said. “I was pleased with the way Austin played.”

Pouncey returns

Sunday marked center Mike Pouncey’s return to Miami, where he played his first seven seasons. He was released in the 2018 offseason and, five days later, signed with the Chargers.

Pouncey was upset about being cut by Miami and, particularly, how the team handled it. He said he was told via a text message to his agent.

“I’ve moved on from it,” Pouncey said after the game. “I’m happy where I’m at. We’re a really good football team. I can’t hold a grudge forever. I did it for a little while and I got nothing from it besides ruining some relationships.”

Rosen woes

Josh Rosen started his second game as a Dolphin and fell to 3-12 for his career as an NFL quarterback.

The former UCLA Bruin finished 17 for 24 for 180 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He began his career last year with Arizona but was traded in the offseason.

The Dolphins tied the score, 10-10, early in the second quarter but the Chargers scored the final 20 points.

So far this season, the Dolphins have been outscored in the second half 81-0.

“I really don’t know,” Rosen said. “You guys keep asking about the second-half thing, and if I had an answer, we’d correctly adjust for it. We’re figuring that out, and hopefully we’ll give you guys a better second half the next time.”

Rosen had good protection early before the Chargers made adjustments. He eventually was sacked five times.

He also was left lamenting his fourth-quarter interception, a career first for Chargers cornerback Michael Davis.

“I just kind of hesitated a little bit,” Rosen said. “Just a couple of adjustments they made. I just made a real dumb decision.”

Lamp plays

Forrest Lamp relieved Dan Feeney at left guard for a stretch, Lynn following through on recent remarks about wanting to give the 2017 second-round pick more chances.

“We have five guys we trust up front,” Lynn said afterward. “We’re going to work Forrest in the mix and let him play some.”

Feeney has struggled at times and against the Dolphins was called for his third holding penalty in two games.

Asked if the move Sunday was more about Feeney than Lamp, Lynn said no.

“This is all about Forrest, just getting some reps,” he said. “I don’t want him standing beside me in Year 3. He’s going to go out there and play.”


Cornerback Casey Hayward, who has been dealing with a back injury, played and finished with four tackles. … With 310 passing yards, Philip Rivers recorded his 65th career 300-yard performance in the regular season.

What Philip Rivers lacked in mobility he made up for in creativity, going off schedule on a pair of touchdown passes in a 30-10 win over Miami.