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Film Study: Melvin Gordon vs. the Atlanta Falcons

I went through and watched every touch by Melvin Gordon this last game. Here’s what I found.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Gordon had a good day on paper, scoring 3 TDs, and carrying his team to victory. Despite this, he only averaged a little over 3 yards a carry, and I wanted to know why.

I grade plays as a plus, minus, or wash. I assign a “plus,” (+) when the player makes more of a situation than he is given (so a loss of yards could still be a plus if he wasn’t at fault). A “minus” (-) is a missed hole, missed opportunity, or something of that sort. A “wash” (=) is something where he took exactly what he was given and didn’t do much with it. For example, he could gain yards, but if he didn’t do anything to gain those yards besides run through a gaping hole, it might be a wash.

Drive 1

Play 1: Run to the right, hit at the line by defender due to blown block by McGrath. (=)

Play 2: Runs exactly the design, handoff to the left, nothing there, and cuts it back to the right for a gain of 4. (+)

Play 3: From I formation, hits hole, makes a guy miss, drags a defender to the 3-yard line for a gain of 7. (+)

Play 4: Takes handoff from next to Rivers, bounces off of Hunter Henry, kicks it out to the left and walks in untouched. (+) Hunter Henry’s block made that TD.

(3 plus, 1 wash)

Drive 2

Play 1: From the 25-yard line, takes the handoff from the I, dances a bit hoping to see something open up, but there is no hole. #84 misses a block again and Gordon gets tackled for a short gain. If he cut it outside, he would have been met by #22. (=)

Bonus Play: Is Rivers’ safety valve, and gets 7 YAC by lowering his head and diving for the 1st down. (+)

2 plays with Dexter McCluster, almost the same two plays, except McCluster gets no gain and pops up a pass from Rivers for an INT.

(1 plus, 1 wash)

Drive 3

After a horrific return from Whalen, and a huge effort for a first down by Tyrell Williams, Melvin takes the handoff off the I and misses a hole between the G and Dunlap, and instead takes it between the Guard and Slauson. Missed opportunity, gains few yards (-)

play 2: I formation, gains 5 with defenders all over him from the line of scrimmage.. (+)

bonus play: pitch to Travis Benjamin who completes a pass to Tyrell Williams. Doesn’t get that 2nd toe in by about 2 inches, incomplete. (+... does his job)

Play 3: I formation, gets hit 1 yard from the line despite hitting the hole at full speed, gets a few yards. (=)

Bonus Play: Gordon bobbles the screen, but would have been laid out by Falcons defender, might have been able to juke. (-)

2 plus, 1 wash, 2 minus

Drive 4

Play 1: Melvin Gordon, I formation behind Watt. No running room, loses 2 yards because the line disintegrated (=). AP wouldn’t have made a play there either.

Bonus play: completely misses his block and allows Rivers to be hit before delivering an incomplete pass to Gates. (-)

1 wash, 1 minus

Drive 5

play 1: I formation, has no one to his right but chooses to dive up the middle for a 2 yard gain. (-)

bonus play: Doesn’t need to block anyone on the Rivers sack fumble. Gordon was wide open and would have had a moderate-to-big gain. (+)

1 minus, 1 plus

Drive 6

Play 1: Has a defender in his face, and due to a missed block by Barksdale, and shoddy blocking by his line up front, he has to fight to get to only a loss of one. The loss is not on him. Could be a plus, despite the loss, because he prevented a worse loss with his power (=)

Play 2: Melvin Gordon runs into his own guy instead of cutting it to the right. Poor vision. (-)

play 3: I formation, breaks a tackle and pounds it into the end zone from about 4 yards out. huge (+)

plus, wash, minus

2nd Half

Drive 7

Play 1: From the SD 11 due to a good punt, Toss to Gordon, smashes Falcon for a 7 yard gain before running out of bounds. (+)


Drive 8

After kick catch interference on Therezie for the Falcons (great name by the way)

Bonus play: On a dump off, gets 7 YAC, bangs his way to the first down. (+)

(After a couple good runs by Farrow)

play 1: Offset I, breaks a couple tackles, protecting the ball the whole way, for an 8 yard gain. (+)

2 plus

Drive 9

bonus play: check down from Philip Rivers, smashes his way through 2 falcons defenders, close to a 1st down. (+)

bonus play: dump off to the outside to Gordon. Gain of 2 (=)

bonus play: checkdown to Gordon, gains 14 with shifty moves and hard-nosed hits… (+)

play 1: Melvin Gordon takes the draw and seeks out the 1st down. Gets the yards he needs, but doesn’t get anything on his own. (=)

Bonus play: Melvin Gordon runs out from the backfield and catches the TD, untouched, and pretty much uncovered (+)

3 plus, 2 wash

Drive 10

After a huge interception by Denzel Perryman, a pass to Tyrell Williams

Play 1: Melvin Gordon gets pushed down by Falcon for a gain of 1. (-)

play 2: Melvin runs into his guard and gets stuffed. Huge loss by him, but negated by Gates reception on 4th down (-)

play 3: Almost is a huge loss on 3rd and 1 at the 28, but is able to break the tackle (an attempted wrap-up by Deion Jones) with a stiff arm, cuts it back across the o-line, and turns it into a huge gain to the 15. Dragged a falcon for about 10 yards. (+)

2 minus, 1 plus


After HUGE stop by Denzel Perryman on 4th down

Drive 11

Play 1: I formation, takes the handoff and due to blown block by 76, and terrible vision, takes a loss of 3. Could have cut it to the right for minimal loss. (-)

play 2: I formation, gives over the top for the 1st down on 3rd and 1 for a critical first down at the Falcon 32. (+)

play 3: I formation, reads the hole, gets hit 2 yards beyond line of scrimmage, but fights for 3 more. Due to holding, automatic 1st down. (+)

Bonus Play: Philip Rivers with some incredibly unathletic move to set up Josh Lambo’s kick from the left hash.

2 plus, 1 minus

17 plus, 7 wash, 8 minus

(32 plays) (53% plus, 25% minus, 22% wash)

In 30 pivotal plays, Melvin Gordon carried the ball 22 times and had 7 targets with 6 receptions.

On his 22 carries, Melvin Gordon had 10 plus, 6 minus, and 6 wash. I would not consider a 45% success rate a good day, despite his 2 rushing TDs. I gave him the benefit of the doubt on 6 plays due to either blown blocks by McGrath (seriously, they were ugly) or no push by the Offensive Line. Despite this, he still had a 27% failure rate on these runs, which seems like a high number to me. Those failures were on him, not on his offensive line.

Where he adds value, is in the passing game, which completely goes against his draft profile, but we all know that he has relatively soft hands, and is shifty in the open field. He had 7 plus, 2 minus, and 1 wash. One of his minus attempts was a huge missed block which allowed Rivers to be hit on a crucial 3rd and long, which arguably helped cause an incompletion to Gates over the middle. On the Rivers sack fumble, he was wide open and would have gained quite a few yards had Rivers looked his way. In passing situations, Melvin Gordon has a 70% success rate, 20% failure, and 10% negligible.

While I am a huge supporter of Melvin Gordon and have always been, when delving this deep into his game, you can see that he still hesitates at times and tries to dance behind the line of scrimmage. Yes, the blocking up front is failing at least 25% of the time, which is not good, but Melvin Gordon should be able to make more out of these situations and lower his amount of failures on the field.