C.J. Anderson was the surprise running back of the football world last season. He came on late for the Broncos as the team struggled to balance the offense and nobody saw him coming. This season had a similarly quiet start for the young running back, but due to his notoriety from last season’s he no longer can fly under the radar.
His season has been forgettable so far, but for Anderson, one decent run, perhaps uninspiring to the average fan, gave him a much needed boost.
The Broncos found themselves in an overtime battle in Cleveland and fellow running back, Ronnie Hillman was having a superb day on the ground. The Broncos were barely into field goal range and the game was on the line. Hillman had rushed the ball 20 times for 111 yards to Anderson’s nine carries for only 23 yards, but head coach Gary Kubiak called Anderson’s number. On third-and-one, Anderson took the ball off the left tackle and plowed through multiple defenders before being taken down by Donte Whitner six yards downfield. It was a good play but also a huge moment for Anderson.
“I told Kubiak after the game in Cleveland. Ronnie had the hot hand. It clearly showed but he gave me the run in overtime. I did what I did with it and I told him after the game, ‘thanks for believing in me and still having faith.’ It means so much that he looks at me and goes, ‘I still put my faith in 22. I will bet my house on 22 on this drive because I know he will take care of business.’ It means a lot and I told after the game, ‘thank you.’ It really meant a lot to me.”
After the first down run Hillman was done for the day. Anderson carried the ball three more critical times and after a pass to Owen Daniels, McManus won the game with a 34-yard field goal.
Anderson has clearly not had the type of season he expected after the second half of 2014, in which he ran for 847 yards in the team’s last nine games. Despite the slow start, he isn’t discouraged and the reason why is not internal.
“It is just not a running back year this year. So that is making me feel good about some things. You can see it around the league. Marshawn [Lynch], DeMarco [Murray], myself, Adrian [Peterson], Arian [Foster], [Jamaal] Charles, you can just see it those ‘top backs’ are having a tough year. It hasn’t been consistent, so it doesn’t frustrate me. I guess it is how the league is going this year.”
Hillman certainly had the hot hand in Cleveland and has had more success all season. Hillman has carried the ball 66 times to Anderson’s 67 but out-gained him, 323 yards to 180. The even split among the two backs is something Kubiak reiterated when asked about Anderson Wednesday.
“We are going to use them both. Like I’ve said, I see them both as starters and they just need to keep going. His [Anderson’s] attitude is good and he is working well,” he said confidently. And Anderson’s teammate and friend understands that he can help the team tremendously if he can get going.
“There are very few teams where just one running back is doing all the work. The more guys you have to help and keep each other fresh is better,” Hillman stated.
Anderson has placed himself among the elite running backs in the league after having a Pro Bowl season and knows that he has a target on his back due to the notoriety he gained last season.
“I have to make more plays,” he said, matter-of-factly on Wednesday “I just think all the backs, Eddie [Lacy], Marshawn [Lynch], LeShaun McCoy can make more plays. We are play makers. That’s what we get paid to do. That is how are name got put on the scene, making plays.”
When asked how he can get back on track his response was simple.
“When you have that opportunity to make a play, make that play. Then, when you know you can get yourself out of some things, get yourself out of some things, like catching the ball out of the backfield. You have to try to find some open space for yourself because there hasn’t been a lot of room for anybody in the league.”
The Green Bay Packers will come to town for a huge showdown of two 6-0 teams on Sunday night and the Broncos offense will certainly have their work cut out for them. The Packers have given up a lot of yards on the ground on average, 118.5 per game (22nd in the league) but have buckled down in half of their contests. They held the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs under 75 total yards rushing. Additionally, their pass rush is phenomenal. They have just three less sacks than the Broncos and are allowing a league fewest 16.8 points per game.
The Packers will likely concentrate on shutting down Manning, leaving Hillman and Anderson in line for a chance to have a big impact. Anderson, after the bye, is ready to wipe the slate clean and get on a run reminiscent of last season’s second half.
“I’m excited about this weekend because I get the opportunity to fix everything,” he said. “The first six weeks don’t matter. I get the opportunity to switch everything, change things up.”
Kubiak has showed his vote of confidence in Anderson, both in his words and in his actions several times. Now, Anderson is ready and willing to reward his coach for keeping the faith in his abilities. Sunday night he will undoubtably get his opportunity and the Broncos would love to ‘change things up’ and run the ball all night.