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C.J. Anderson Proving He's No Fluke as Broncos' Lead Back

Cecil Lammey@@cecillammeyContributor IDecember 1, 2014

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos have found a new workhorse running back in C.J. Anderson, and he’s proving to be no fluke as the team’s starter.

He’s started the last three games for the Broncos, and Anderson has compiled more than 100 all-purpose yards in each game. Even in a game he didn’t start (against the Oakland Raiders in Week 10), Anderson had more than 100 rushing and receiving yards combined. That makes four games in a row Anderson has produced at a high level for the Broncos.

Once again this week, Anderson came through for the Broncos in a big way.

Anderson was a battering ram for the Broncos as they faced the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in Week 13. The second-year back picked up 168 yards on 32 carries on Sunday night.

This mark represents a career-high in rushing yards for Anderson. His 168-yard performance comes on the heels of last week’s 167-yard game against the Miami Dolphins.

C.J. Anderson became 1st #Broncos RB to rush for 150+ yds in consecutive games since Reuben Droughns in 2004 (10/10 vs CAR & 10/17 at OAK)

— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) December 1, 2014

The Broncos began this game by showing an extra emphasis on the run, and the move paid off. Anderson received four straight carries to open the team’s first drive. After a pass to Emmanuel Sanders, Anderson received two more carries before Demaryius Thomas caught a 23-yard touchdown pass.

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 30:   Peyton Manning #18 drops back to  C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Imag
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning felt it was important to get off to a hot start in this divisional game on the road. “I thought it was critical to get off to that good start in a hostile environment and get the crowd out of it, "he said. "The offensive line was awesome tonight. C.J. was a workhorse tonight; he was really special.”

After the game, Anderson talked about if running for more than 150 yards per game is the new normal for the Broncos offense.

“I just do whatever is called. Our offensive coordinator, Coach (Adam) Gase, he trusts me with the ball in my hand. You've got to give it to the big fellas up front. This is making another statement,” Anderson emphasized. “We are proving to everybody on the outside that we can run the ball and this is what we can do.”

Anderson picked up a lot of tough yards for the Broncos in Week 13. He broke a lot of tackles against the Chiefs on his way to picking up a whopping 90 yards rushing after contact. Breaking tackles and running with authority is just the name of Anderson’s game.

“It's always been in my arsenal. It's just running hard and letting people feel my story. It's just being that tough, nasty running back that the O-line loves. They just feel so good when you are running through people,” Anderson said. “Who doesn't want to run behind an offensive line that is excited about running the ball?”

The NFL average for yards after contact per rush is 1.82 yards. Against the Chiefs, Anderson averaged a whopping 2.81 yards after contact per rush. He simply wouldn’t be denied against the Chiefs, and his running was certainly a key to the Broncos’ victory.

So with Anderson continuing to prove himself every week, what do the Broncos do when Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball are healthy?

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 14: Running back Montee Ball #28 of the Denver Broncos is tackled by cornerback Ron Parker #38 of the Kansas City Chiefs near the goal line in the fourth quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 14, 2014
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Ball began the season as the starter for the Broncos, but he failed to impress. In the Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals, Ball sustained a groin injury. He missed the next five games for the Broncos, but he returned briefly for an appearance in the Week 11 game against the Rams.

He reaggravated his groin injury in that game, and Ball has been inactive over the last two games. He might be able to return in the near future, and Ball may be ready to return for the Week 14 game against the Buffalo Bills.

When Ball went down, Hillman took over as the starter. In five games as the lead back, Hillman had two 100-yard rushing games and showed big-play ability because of his speed and agility.

Hillman has missed the last three games due to a midfoot sprain he suffered in the game against the Raiders. That injury opened the door for Anderson to show what he can do.

Since Week 10, no player has rushed for more yards than Anderson.

#NFL leading rushers since Week 10 #Broncos CJ Anderson (454) #Seahawks Marshawn Lynch (407) #Ravens Justin Forsett (400) - all Cal RBs

— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) December 1, 2014

Like Ball, Hillman is close to returning for the Broncos. He might still be a week or two away with his foot injury. The Broncos are not going to rush Hillman back too soon—there’s simply no need to with the way Anderson is running.

When all three backs are healthy, Denver should still use Anderson as the starter. However, after 59 rushes over the last two weeks, we should see a smaller workload for Anderson at that time.

We could see Anderson get around 20 carries per game with those other carries going to Hillman in a change-of-pace fashion. Ball should only be a backup who plays sparingly for the Broncos.

Anderson is the real deal. Denver finally found a back who can do it all. There’s no need to go away from him as the lead back as the team marches towards the playoffs.

All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos unless otherwise noted. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.

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