Phillip Lindsay is on a run so amazing the NFL has never seen anything like it. He has dashed from the bottom of the Broncos depth chart, bolted past defenders grasping at nothing but air, and kept on trucking to the end zone, headed to a place where no undrafted rookie has ever gone.
"We call him the pit bull," Denver teammate Domata Peko said Sunday, after Lindsay rushed for 157 yards in a 24-10 victory against Cincinnati.
Pit bull. That's kind of cute for a young man with a squeaky voice and a demeanor as gentle as a pussy cat. It's also an apt nickname for the relentless fight found in Lindsay, generously listed in your game program at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds.
End of the Mike McCarthy Era in Green Bay: Week 13 in the NFL (Albert Breer, Sports Illustrated/MMQB)
We wrote something on Denver's rookie class last week, but it's worth doubling back to really look atwhat undrafted tailback Phillip Lindsay has pulled off: He has 937 yards and eight touchdowns on 154 carries (a 6.1-yard average), and another 189 yards and a touchdown on 25 catches. By comparison, Saquon Barkley has 954 yards and eight touchdowns on 195 carries (4.9-yard average), plus 602 yards and four touchdowns on 74 catches. Denver, by the way, saw a lot of what they're getting now in Lindsay when he was playing collegiately down the road in Boulder. Their question was whether, at 5'8" and 190 pounds, he was big enough to shoulder a sizeable NFL workload. So far, so good, and suddenly the Broncos are right in the thick of the AFC wild-card race.
FMIA Week 13: Packers Fire McCarthy in Merciful Move For Coach, Team (Peter King, NBC/Pro Football Talk)
Offensive Players of the Week
Phillip Lindsay, running back, Denver. In the great tradition of unknown Denver running backs, Lindsay is trying put the Broncos on his back on the way to an unlikely playoff run. His 157 rushing yards on 19 carries made him Denver's most important player Sunday in Cincinnati, and you can make the case he's been the key to their three-game, season-saving winning streak.
Courtland Sutton leads Broncos' receiving corps in victory at Bengals (Kyle Fredrickson, Denver Post)
The Broncos led 7-3 early in the third quarter when offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave dialed up a deep shot to Sutton. Quarterback Case Keenum handled the second-down snap under center as receiver DaeSean Hamilton ran left-to-right in motion. Keenum utilized play action and didn't hesitate in targeting Sutton down the right sideline for the 30-yard score.
"You just have to get it close," Keenum said, "and he makes big plays."
Sutton high-pointed the football above Phillips' head and hauled in the touchdown, his first score since Denver traded veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to Houston last month. Sutton led the Broncos with four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown. It marked noted improvement from a week ago versus Pittsburgh when Sutton had two drops and one catch for 14 yards.
"Courtland's getting better and better," coach Vance Joseph said after the win. "We know what he can do. Obviously, he has to prove it each week. … He's finally showing when he's one-on-one and the ball's in the air, he's going to win most of those. That's who we thought he was going to be."
Broncos' Von Miller, Bradley Chubb pass rush duo wreaks havoc at Bengals (Kyle Fredrickson, Denver Post)
Miller now has 12.5 sacks. Chubb, meanwhile, became just the ninth rookie in league history to reach 10 sacks over his first 12 games. Few were more impressive than his ball-hawking sack of Driskel that led to the end zone celebration.
"Chubb made a helluva play," defensive end Adam Gostis said.
Only to be topped by Miller's buck-em-Broncos celebration.
"I'll go out there, make a play and Von is happy for me," Chubb said. "It's pretty cool to see."
Broncos overcome mounting injuries to beat Bengals, 24-10 (Mike Klis, 9 News)
"It just shows you that we prepare ourselves during the week – everybody prepares like they're going to play because everybody might have to play," Wolfe said. "It shows what kind of resilience and what kind of dedication this team has to winning."
Much of this resiliency comes from its rookies. John Elway's draft class was not just for the future but the here and now. Undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
Second-round rookie receiver Courtland Sutton caught four passes for 85 yards,including a 30-yard touchdown. First-round outside linebacker Bradley Chubb picked up his 10th sack of the season. And thirdround cornerback Isaac Yiadom, who moved to No. 3 after Brock's injury this week, was No. 2 after Harris went down early.
"I know it's cliché to say next man up but we have got a lot of great rookies that are going to have to play well to keep us on the wave that we're on," said Von Miller, who had 1.5 sacks to give him 12 on the season.
Surprised? Nine months ago, Phillip Lindsay detailed his plan to prove the NFL wrong (Nicki Jhabvala, The Athletic)
Back then, Lindsay was merely a hopeful for the NFL combine, a longshot for the NFL draft and a maybe for a rookie minicamp invite. His 5-foot-8, 190-pound frame was apparently a deterrent for NFL teams casting their new rosters.
But back then, Lindsay also made a boastful — and so far truthful claim — that has provided the foundation for his record rookie season.
"I think a lot of people don't understand how athletic I really am and how fast I am," he said. "So I'm just working on speed so I can impress the scouts. I know what I can do. I know my ability. My biggest motto is 'outlast people.' That's what it's about. It's about outlasting people. When you work hard and you take a lot of time for your body and you start to see results as time goes on and you see you're still healthier than a lot of people because you put that extra work in to outlast him."
Fast Phillip has another 100 yard game, two more touchdowns (Mike Klis, 9 News)
Broncos defensive tackle Domata Peko Sr., the former long-time Bengal, recalled the first time he saw, and heard, Lindsay. It was after Lindsay signed as an undrafted rookie. All the rooks had to stand up and introduce themselves.
"I remember at training camp and OTAs he was wearing No. 2, and all the guys were like, 'Who the hell is that No. 2?''' Peko said. "He's making plays on us, man.' And now the world knows, it's Phillip Lindsay, man.
"The funniest part about it, we had introductions to meet the new guys, and Phillip Lindsay said – (and here Peko switched to a high-pitched voice to mimic Lindsay's) -- 'My name's Phillip Lindsay. I'm from Colorado, and I went to Colorado.' It's stuck in my head forever."
Broncos Journal: Does recent play suggest Garett Bolles is turning corner? Team should hope so (Ryan O'Halloran, Denver Post)
Let's not reserve Bolles on a flight to Orlando for the Pro Bowl or start allocating 2020-and-beyond salary cap space for a contract extension. The penalty total in particular remains too high.
But, as the Broncos get ready to play at Cincinnati on Sunday, there should be a certain level of trust developing with quarterback Case Keenum's blind-side protector.
"He's playing at a high level right now," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "He's a first-round pick so we thought he could be this, but he has to continue to work on technique and to play with more consistency. If he does that, he will be where we want him to be."
Broncos Analysis: Denver improves to .500 after an injury-filled road win over Bengals in Week 13 (Ryan O'Halloran, Denver Post)
Denver rallied from 12 points down to beat the Chargers, forced a late-game turnover to beat the Steelers and scored two touchdowns less than four minutes apart in the third quarter Sunday to pull away from the reeling Bengals (5-7).
"A lot of people threw in the towel on us, but the guys in this room stuck together," nose tackle Domata Peko said. "When we beat the Chargers, it clicked some confidence in us, like, 'If we can beat them, we can beat anybody.'"
The Broncos also know they can't let up. Their poor start leaves no margin for error.