BRONCOS

From starter to cut: Fifth fumble becomes final straw for Broncos with Gordon

Nov 21, 2022, 11:40 AM | Updated: 11:44 am
Melvin Gordon...
(Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)

DENVER — Melvin Gordon’s second and third fumbles this season knocked him down the depth chart. A fourth fumble only kept him in the lineup because Javonte Williams tore multiple knee ligaments on the same day, which pushed Gordon back into the starting lineup.

But the fifth fumble proved to be the end of the eight-year veteran’s time in Denver.

The Broncos released Gordon on Monday, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The move brings an end to a two-and-a-half-season tenure in Denver that saw plenty of production — 2,816 yards from scrimmage and 22 total touchdowns — but was doomed by a series of fumbles at some of the worst possible times.

Gordon fumbled five times in 115 total touches this season — a rate of once every 23 touches. That’s a catastrophically high rate. In 2021, he fumbled once every 87.0 touches. A year earlier, he had one fumble every 61.8 touches.

But it was the timing of the fumbles that stood out. His first fumble this season came near the goal line in Seattle, as he tried to score on fourth-and-goal. After two fumbles against San Francisco that the Broncos recovered, his next fumble came in the second quarter at Las Vegas. Denver was in field-goal range when Gordon lost the football; Las Vegas recovered and returned it for a touchdown. The 9-point swing proved to be the exact difference in a 32-23 loss.

Sunday’s fumble came after he had already picked up a first down, which would have put the Broncos in first-and-goal with a chance to take a 17-7 halftime lead. Instead, they settled for a Brandon McManus field-goal attempt following Quinn Meinerz’s recovery. Maxx Crosby blocked the attempt, and the Broncos ended up with nothing but a chorus of boos.

Dating back to last season, opponents returned three of Gordon’s last seven fumbles as a Bronco for touchdowns.

Gordon ran well in the first half Sunday. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry. But after the fumble, the Broncos leaned on Latavius Murray. Gordon’s work after halftime was limited mostly to third downs, although he did pitch in a 21-yard reception.

But Gordon also had some difficulty in pass-protection Sunday, something that has long been a strength of his.

“I shot my own self in the foot. Just a little salty because I was feeling it today. And [the fumble] happened, and I kind of knew,” Gordon said in the locker room Sunday. “Tried to make splashes here and there after it, but my share of opportunities kind of dwindled after that. That’s my fault.”

There were plenty of other miscues, to be certain. Gordon wasn’t solely culpable for the Broncos’ seventh defeat. But as was the case with his fumble in Week 4, it lit the fuse of failures.

“We still had two quarters left. Still had a chance to get points after that. So, it wasn’t the end of the world,” Gordon said. “But unfortunately for me, it was something I didn’t want to happen.”

And it proved to be the end of the line for Gordon as a Bronco.

***
WHAT’S NEXT?

It won’t involve Chase Edmonds, at least in the near term. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Edmonds will miss multiple weeks with a high-ankle sprain suffered in the first half Sunday.

For now, expect to see more of Murray and recent pickup Marlon Mack. Denver deactivated Mack in each of the last three games. The Broncos also expect to welcome Mike Boone back from a high-ankle sprain in the next two weeks.

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