Chargers fans have a complicated relationship with Melvin Gordon. Well, it is not really all that complicated. The former first-round pick became almost universally disliked by fans after his contract dispute with the team led to him missing the first four games of the 2019 season. After that, fans turned sour on Gordon and turned even more sour on him once he signed with the Denver Broncos.
Throw in the comments he made after signing with the Broncos that he was used to playing in front of no fans from his days with the Chargers and he became an instant villain for most fans. A villain that they had to see twice a year.
The Chargers throttled Gordon and the Denver Broncos in Week 17 to keep the team's playoff hopes alive and end the Broncos' slim playoff chances. However, Gordon was ultimately the one who got the last laugh as one single mistake by him may have had a massive butterfly effect. Without this one mistake, we might be writing about the Chargers' Wild-Card Round matchup.
How Melvin Gordon kept the LA Chargers out of the playoffs
It all has to do with the Week 18 game between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos were surprisingly leading the Chiefs late in the game and it appeared as if Denver was going to steal the game from Kansas City to wrap up the season.
Denver led by one and had the ball deep in Kansas City territory in the fourth quarter. With 7:42 remaining on a second and two run from the nine-yard line, Gordon was given the hand-off and was popped by Melvin Ingram. Gordon did what he did when he was teammates with Ingram on the Chargers and fumbled the ball, allowing Nick Bolton to scoop and score.
This changed the game completely. The Broncos were at least going to take a four-point lead and seemed well on their way to going up eight. While the Chiefs still could have won if this didn't happen, it swung the game drastically.
If this fumble does not happen there is a better chance that the Chiefs lose. If the Chiefs would have lost to the Broncos then they would have been the third seed in the AFC as Buffalo would have had the same record and the head-to-head tiebreaker. So where are we going with all of this?
Buffalo would have been the second seed and Kansas City would have been the third seed. With a win against the Chargers, the Raiders became the sixth seed in the AFC and take on the third-seeded Bengals. If they would have tied then the Chargers would have been the sixth seed and the Raiders would have been the seventh seed.
Vegas obviously does not want to have to play Kansas City in the playoffs considering they allowed 40 points both times they played them. In this alternate reality where Gordon does not fumble, a win would have resulted in the Raiders playing the third-seeded Chiefs in Arrowhead. The alternative would have been playing Buffalo, which is not as big of a challenge.
With all of those things considered, maybe the Raiders really would have been okay with pushing the tie. Yes, the main thing to blame is the Chargers' failed execution, especially on third-down runs, but perhaps with a bit more incentive, and that mindset, the Raiders would have actually played for the tie, not the win.
The LA Chargers should have beaten the Las Vegas Raiders regardless and we would not have even had this conversation. However, it hurts to know that Melvin Gordon may have hurt the Chargers one last time with a fumble.