ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Nine games into a wobbly season, the coveted one-two punch that was supposed to be the Denver Broncos' running game has largely been a swing-and-miss.
Phillip Lindsay, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, carried the ball four times for 2 yards in the Broncos' 37-12 loss Sunday to the Las Vegas Raiders. Melvin Gordon -- who signed to a two-year, $16 million deal in the offseason to pair with Lindsay -- fared somewhat better with 11 carries for 46 yards, but the Broncos ran the ball 19 times total. Lindsay had one target in the passing game, a pass he dropped when he was hit while trying to make the catch. Gordon was targeted twice with no catches.
Second-year quarterback Drew Lock threw four interceptions against the Raiders, and if the Broncos want to get him on track, they need to get more production from their run game.
"That would be of great help, it would be," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Monday. "We were trying to run [Sunday], it didn't always work out well."
The Broncos are 19th in the league in rushing, 22nd in the league in rushing attempts and tied for 24th in rushing touchdowns. Gordon has carried the ball 107 times for 439 yards and four touchdowns; Lindsay has carried 57 times for 312 yards and a score.
Just days before the Raiders' loss, Lindsay made it clear he believes the run game can lift the Broncos' offense.
"For sure, let's just face it, the team that can run the ball the best is going to win the game," Lindsay said last week. "... You're physical, you're pushing it down the field, you're punching them in the face. ... There's only a handful or maybe one or two teams that can live off the pass 24/7. That's just not how it is."
Sunday, it was the Raiders who did the punching, with 203 yards rushing compared to the Broncos' 66, and when the Raiders held the ball for all but four plays in the third quarter, they ran the ball 11 times over two scoring drives.
"We got behind, and you're not going to get a lot of opportunities in the run game when you're behind," Fangio said.
The Broncos never held the lead Sunday against the Raiders. They haven't held the lead for a single minute in five of their six losses this season and three of those games have been in the past four weeks. And it's not just playing from behind, but from far behind. The Broncos trailed 24-9 at halftime in the loss to the Chiefs, 20-3 at halftime against the Atlanta Falcons and 20-6 at the end of the third quarter Sunday.
"The first message was the second half is unacceptable," Fangio said. "We didn't play or coach good enough in that second half to stay in a game that was a four-point game at halftime and all of our fingerprints are on it. We've got to regroup ... we've got to get regrouped and refocused and get our energies and our emotions pointed in the right direction."
Lock has now thrown six interceptions in his past nine quarters, and he's currently last among the league's starters in completion percentage. Only the Jets' Sam Darnold has a worse passer rating than Lock's 66.5. The offense has now scored 18 or fewer points in five games this season, including three times over the past five. That's a long way from the offense the Broncos envisioned they would cocoon Lock in with Gordon and Lindsay leading the run game.
Lindsay has been injured twice this season -- a toe injury kept him out of three games and the second half of another, and he missed the second half against the Chiefs with a concussion. He has had six, eight and four carries in the past three games, respectively. At one point during the Broncos' loss in Las Vegas on Sunday, Gordon went to the sideline and it was Royce Freeman, not Lindsay, who came into the game.
"It is what it is, you can't sit here and cry over it," Lindsay said last week. "You've just got to take advantage of the reps you're getting. The fact is that when you get an opportunity, take advantage of it. When you sit there and wait for your opportunity you can't do nothing about it. You've got two really good running backs, and hopefully they find ways to get us more involved. If not, you just have to wait for your time."
Asked Monday if Lindsay was healthy, Fangio said: "He's probably not 100 percent with the injuries he's had, he tweaked it a couple weeks ago, he's plenty fine. Think he's like a lot of running backs this time of year."