ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos have nothing to play for Sunday against Kansas City except pride and personal milestones such as C.J. Anderson adding ”1,000-yard rusher ” to his resume.
The fifth-year running back is 54 yards shy of becoming the franchise’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Knowshon Moreno in 2013.
”It’s huge,” said Anderson, who is also 60 minutes away from reaching another one of his goals: playing a full season healthy.
”Some people forget I had knee surgery last year. So, coming away with 1,000 for this season coming off of knee surgery I think is an accomplished and successful season, staying healthy,” Anderson said. ”We have one game to do it, I know the big boys want me to get it and we want to get it.”
That would give the Broncos (5-10) something to celebrate in a soured season that in many ways was their worst since their awful AFL days in the 1960s.
”I think that’s a positive in our season,” Anderson said. ”At the same time – we know the Chiefs, they’re going to play man to man – so hopefully we can find a way to get D.T. his sixth straight (1,000-yard receiving season), too.”
Demaryius Thomas is 108 yards shy of that milestone, but he’ll likely be catching passes from Paxton Lynch and not Brock Osweiler on Sunday, so odds are better Anderson will reach his milestone.
Lynch threw for 41 yards in his one start this season, last month against Oakland, when he sprained his left ankle, an injury that has sidelined him ever since. Coach Vance Joseph said Lynch will start Sunday if his ankle allows.
The Chiefs (9-6) will start first-round pick QB Patrick Mahomes , and the Broncos want to get another look at their disappointing 2016 first-round draft choice before heading into an offseason, when upgrading the quarterback position is job No. 1 for general manager John Elway.
The impending roster shakeup might sweep Anderson out of Denver.
Anderson is completing the second season of his four-year, $18 million deal, and his salary jumps from $2.9 million to $4.5 million in each of the next two seasons. There’s no dead cap money involved if the Broncos decide to move on from Anderson to Devontae Booker or rookie De’Angelo Henderson.
Anderson has maintained his strength thanks to boxing and biking he did in the offseason as he recovered from knee surgery.
”I think I’m peaking at the right time,” Anderson said. ”I’ll be 27 in February. I think that helps. I’m in my prime years and it sucks to waste one.”
Anderson said he wants to reach 1,000 yards because he wants to catch up to – or at least keep up with – Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell, the only fifth-year running back who has better career numbers than he does.
That’s a point of pride for Anderson, who wasn’t one of the 23 running backs drafted in 2013.
”I want to get 1,000 yards this season and stack them up every season I play from here on out,” Anderson said.
Bell is in the midst of his third 1,000-yard rushing season but lacks a Super Bowl ring – Anderson has one. Anderson might not have been sweating it out this week had the Broncos stuck to the run earlier in the season. The Broncos are 5-0 when they run more than they pass, 0-10 when they don’t.
Reaching 1,000 yards is in some ways a bigger deal than ever in an era when teams split the snaps with bigger backfields and rely more on their air attacks than ground games.
”That’s a tough stinking position to play, so even today to put together that amount of yardage I think is still a pretty big thing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”That position, it’s rough. You’re taking some pretty good hits. And so to get that mileage and stay healthy to get the mileage I still think is quite an accomplishment.”
Of the seven 1,000-yard rushers so far – Bell, Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy, Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram and Melvin Gordon – only Howard’s Bears aren’t in the playoff mix.
Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette (971) and Baltimore’s Alex Collins (895) are closing in on 1,000, and their teams have either clinched a playoff berth or can do so this weekend.
”That’s the shame of it,” Anderson said of his healthiest, most productive season yet, ”is that won’t matter come January.”
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