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'I was going to fight to the end': How Phillip Lindsay ran his way into the record books

DENVER — Minutes after Phillip Lindsay made history, he almost un-made it.

With 7:48 left in the fourth quarter, Lindsay ran for eight yards and wrote himself into the history books — he surpassed 1,000 yards for this season, becoming the first undrafted player in NFL history to begin his career with consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He also became just the fourth Bronco to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

But on the Broncos next offensive drive, Lindsay lost five yards.

And on the following offensive drive, Lindsay lost another yard and was two yards away from erasing his name from the record books.

"That would have sucked, huh?" Lindsay said with a laugh at his locker following the win "But I was able to get it back. I was going to find a way to keep it. I was going to fight to the end."

And fight, Lindsay did.

After the two-minute warning, he ran for eight more yards and secured his place in history. Then, he rushed for another yard on the next play, for good measure.

"It feels good, but it was a tough one," Lindsay said. "It was probably the toughest 1,000 yards I've ever had to get in my life, when it comes to football. Everything happens for a reason, and I got to showcase my toughness and my ability to be an every-down back."

After going undrafted in 2018, the Colorado native has run through two seasons with a chip on his shoulder and endeared himself to Broncos Country with his larger-than-life personality and hairstyle.

"That's a hell of an accomplishment," Head Coach Vic Fangio said of Lindsay's milestone. "It's also not a very good accomplishment for all the people that bypassed him in the draft."

Though the thought of reaching 1,000 yards in the Broncos' season finale against the Raiders was on Lindsay's mind leading up to Sunday afternoon, his priority was beating the division rival.

"I think overall, other than just the 1,000 yards, I'm excited about the team and what's to come," Lindsay said on Tuesday.

Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello also emphasized that he hoped Lindsay's 1,000 yards would be a byproduct of the Broncos beating the Raiders, but Scangarello noted how Lindsay has improved over the course of the season.

"I just feel like in the run game, in particular, he's just gotten better and better," Scangarello said of Lindsay on Friday. "It takes a little bit of time and he's starting to figure it out against these 4-3 [defense] types of teams. He's playing better and better …"

The Broncos finished with 238 total yards compared to the Raiders' 477, and Lindsay's 53-yard afternoon was second only to wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton's 65-yard performance.

Lindsay's record-breaking, crucial yardage earned him a game ball and praise from his offensive line on Sunday.

"He does a lot," center Connor McGovern said. "He's a great running back. He makes us look good a lot, but we do take some pride in that too."

Like the rest of the Broncos' offense, Lindsay has played with three different quarterbacks this season in games as high scoring as Week 14's 38-24 win and Sunday's gritty 16-15 victory. Despite the ups and downs the Broncos have endured, Lindsay ran every game just as hard.

"Phillip's a really selfless person, a really selfless player," guard Dalton Risner said. "He plays extremely hard and deserves every bit of [the record]. I love blocking for the man, and I hope I get to block for him for my whole career. I love that guy to death, and he's very well deserving."

After an 0-4 start, the Broncos finished 7-5 and won four of their last five, but the Broncos' offense is already excited for next season. And Lindsay got his 1,000 yards, but he's already looking ahead to next year.

"I just need to go build on this," Lindsay said. "I need to look at myself in the mirror and find ways to get better in the passing game, the blocking game, the running game. I want to be an elite running back, and I want to be a top-five running back in the league."

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