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C.J. Anderson latest Broncos' back to seize the day

12/1/2014


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When it comes to running backs bursting through the line and on to the scene, the Denver Broncos have sort of written the book on this sort of thing.

Or as running backs coach Eric Studesville has put it; "It's all about opportunity and sometimes we have certainly been the land of opportunity."

In fact, in the post T.D. era, it has become habit really. Yes, since Terrell Davis concluded his decorated tenure as The Guy in the Broncos' offense, there have been flirtations with the back-in-the-day No. 1 back, most notably in Clinton Portis' time with the team.

Then Portis was traded before the 2004 season, as part of the Champ Bailey deal, and since the plug-and-play system has been in place, either because of injuries, roster moves or the light simply went on for a back who had waited for his turn. But since the start of the '04 season, the Broncos have had five different running backs post a 1,000-yard rushing season -- Reuben Droughns, Mike Anderson, Tatum Bell, Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.

They have had two other running backs lead the team in rushing at least one season in that span with less than 1,000 yards -- Selvin Young and Peyton Hillis -- while Moreno and McGahee also led the team in rushing in at least one season each without reaching 1,000 yards.

But this time, as Football America looks on with more than a few raised eyebrows, the Broncos may have out-done themselves with the unveiling of C.J. Anderson. In the Broncos' 29-16 win against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night, Anderson became the first NFL running back since Adrian Peterson in 2012 to post back-to-back games with at least 150 yards rushing, the first to do it for the Broncos since Droughns did it in '04.

And for that slice of history, Anderson read a text from his mother, Neva Craig, that said "stay humble."

Anderson, who now has all of three career starts, has rushed for 167 and 168 yards in the last two of those starts, which happen to be the last two Broncos' wins. He had 201 yards rushing in his first 11 games this season, including being a game-day inactive in Week 5 and not getting a carry in Week 6. He's now had 335 yards rushing in the past two games as the Broncos have topped 200 yards rushing in each of the wins against the Dolphins and Chiefs.

"I just feel like I belong," Anderson said. "That's how I've always felt, the way I prepare, the way we prepare as a running back group, just the way we prepare and the way we approach every week, every day. Any of us can have that day. I don't feel like it was a hot hand, I just feel like the coaches trusting me, [No.] 18 putting us in the right positions, the O-line doing a hell of a job."

It would have been a nonsensical thought even three weeks ago, but Anderson now needs to average a lofty, but doable, 116 yards over the final four games to reach 1,000 for the season. This from a player whose roster spot was shaky during offseason workouts and minicamp because the team's decision-makers thought he looked sluggish.

But the injuries to Montee Ball (right groin) and Ronnie Hillman (left foot) made Anderson the next man up, so consider the opportunity seized. So much so on Monday that Broncos head coach John Fox deflected the first of what figures to be many of the inevitable what-happens-when-others-guys-are-healthy questions with, "We'll cross that bridge when it happens, right now he's playing very well and he's our starting running back."

Anderson also has a fairly new problem as well as his work, and workload, has become under the fantasy football microscope. Asked Monday about how many texts or contacts he gets on social media about fantasy football these days, Anderson said: "Too many, too many to just look. I guess I could say to all the fantasy players out there, I just love what I do and I'm having fun, but don't get mad if certain situations come up and I decide not to get in the end zone, not to make that long run, because I'm trying to win games at the end of the day and that's all that matters."