ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have had plenty of hopes dashed during the first six weeks of the 2020 NFL season.
Among those dashed dreams was an early-season hope for a top-shelf rushing attack combining running backs Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon which would allow the Broncos to control games while offering Lock some much-needed support. But entering Week 8 and coming off a 10th consecutive loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Lindsay is injured for a second time this season and Gordon's play has been choppy at best.
Lindsay suffered a concussion in Sunday's game, which means the possibilities of mixing and matching the two running backs or having them line up together in the formation are again on hold. Lindsay and Gordon have been in uniform during the same game for four quarters this season -- two in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans and two Sunday against the Chiefs.
Lindsay left the opener with a toe injury and missed the next three games. When Lindsay returned for the Week 5 game against the New England Patriots, Gordon sat out with strep throat during a week in which he had also been cited for speeding and a DUI in downtown Denver.
On Sunday, Lindsay played 14 snaps before he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen. At that moment, he had rushed for 79 yards on his nine carries -- 8.8 yards per carry -- and he had powered what would be a season-best 177-yard rushing day for the Broncos. Lindsay left the game in the second quarter, and in the second half, Gordon had two carries for more than 4 yards.
"Phillip is a great back, Melvin is a great back, Royce [Freeman] is a great back. We have three great backs that a lot of teams wish they had and we have them," left tackle Garett Bolles said. "We've got to use them in a way to make them more versatile and dangerous for the defense. We've got to continue to run the ball. That's flat-out. We continue to run the ball. We ran for almost 200 yards [Sunday]. Most teams that run for 200 yards win the ball game. ... You saw us the last two games that we won when we controlled the clock."
If Lindsay -- who is in the concussion protocol, according to Broncos coach Vic Fangio -- misses an extended period of time, the Broncos' run game figures to feel his absence. Lindsay is averaging 5.2 yards per carry -- over a yard more per carry than Gordon -- and has three of the team's four run plays this season of at least 19 yards. Lock has said Lindsay "brings an energy that is infectious."
Gordon, especially Sunday, has not yet found a consistency in the Broncos' offense. He leads the team both in overall fumbles and lost fumbles -- three -- including his errant flip on an ill-fated flea-flicker Sunday. Gordon has had limited impact in the passing game with 4.4 yards per catch. Take away his 43-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds of the Broncos' win over the Jets when Denver was simply trying to run out the clock, and he has averaged 3.7 yards on his other 81 carries with 21 of his carries overall (25.6%) having gone for no gain or negative yardage.
"Obviously, turning the ball over is never good," Fangio said of Gordon's play. "I'm not sure exactly what happened on the flea-flicker as far as where the breakdown was there, whether it was a bad pitch back or not. We can't turn the ball over, obviously."
The Broncos (2-4) don't face a team that currently has a winning record in their next four games, and only one -- Atlanta, with the 31st-ranked defense overall -- has a run defense ranked above 14th in the league.
"I would hope to be able to see [Gordon and Lindsay together] on the field throughout the rest of this season because it keeps people off balance," Lindsay said last week. "It keeps people on edge because you don't know who's going to get the ball and it opens lanes for both Mel and I. Hopefully, there are going to be packages later down the line with us."