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BMW Ultimate Performance: C.J. Anderson's quest for 1,000

Posted Dec 20, 2017

Anderson's big night last week has him nearing a milestone number. If he hits it, he knows the accomplishment will belong to the offensive line as much as himself.

One of the reasons why a well-executed running game can be the most beautiful aspect of football to watch is because of the array of spots that require precise execution in order to make a play work.

Rarely is it about the ballcarrier doing the job on his own. Yes, C.J. Anderson's work against the Indianapolis Colts last week was impressive; his 30-carry, 158-yard performance was the best for a Broncos running back since his 168-yard effort at Kansas City on Nov. 30, 2014.

But it was also about the holes created by an offensive line whose steady improvement despite the loss of two starters to injured reserve has helped the running game find its form in recent weeks.

"I just picked the right spots," Anderson said of his game last week.

Often, Anderson doesn't need to pick the right spots to create a productive run. Of the 17 running backs with at least 700 yards so far this season, only one -- Pittsburgh's LeGarrette Blount -- generates a higher percentage of his yardage after contact than Anderson, who has picked up 70.6 percent of his yards after first contact.

Against the Colts, 64.6 percent of his yards game after contact, a lower figure than usual -- due in part to the work to the holes the line provided, building off its momentum of the previous two games.

In the last three weeks, the Broncos rank eighth in the NFL with 133.3 rushing yards per game. Denver is one of eight teams with 400 or more rushing yards in December; all of those teams have winning records this month.

Anderson has 273 of those yards, placing him sixth among running backs this month.

"It does feel good to have 30 totes every once in a while," Anderson said. "Another check mark on my career. We'll just continue to keep grinding from there."

In the short term, Anderson and the Broncos want to put a significant check mark on his resume -- one that goes next to the words, "1,000-yard season." If he averages 71 yards in his final two games, he will become the first Broncos running back since Knowshon Moreno in 2013 to reach that figure.

“I think the personal milestones for players are important," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "C.J. Anderson has not, first of all, stayed healthy for a full season. I've been proud of C.J. of how he came into camp in great shape and he's actually been healthy for an entire season.

"Him getting 1,000 yards is important. It's important for our football team and important for C.J."

That milestone has become harder to reach in recent years as the game has become more air-centric. In the five seasons from 2012-16, there were 61 1,000-yard rushing seasons -- the lowest for a five-year period in more than two decades, since 57 runners hit that mark from 1991-95.

"I'm on track. I'm just going to leave it at that," Anderson said.

If Anderson gets there, he knows it will be a collective accomplishment.

"Myself and the O-line, we can put something special together," he said, "We have two weeks left and we're trying to do something really special. The goal is definitely over 1,000 [yards], but we're trying to be super special with that.

"We'll see how the cards lay out at the end of the year and hopefully the O-line and myself can brag about some things."

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