DENVER – C.J. Anderson turned the corner, looking for open space, but Chargers linebacker Korey Toomer was waiting.
The next instant offered an encouraging look at the Broncos 2017 season.
The two men met at the 11-yard line. Toomer lowered his shoulder, ready to drop Anderson. But Anderson had other ideas. He leveled Toomer with a perfectly timed and properly vicious stiff arm.
The shot showed Anderson at his best: feisty, imaginative and violent. Two plays later, the Broncos scored their first touchdown of the season.
When looking for the MIP – most important person – of the Broncos 2017 season, look no farther than Anderson. If he can lead a revival of the running game, which fizzled last season, the Broncos can soar among the AFC’s elite.
Anderson has taken a wild ride as a Bronco, almost as wild as Monday’s thrilling and confusing 24-21 win over the Chargers.
He arrived in 2013 as an undrafted free agent. He had been lightly recruited out of high school and had to settle for a junior college. Become a starter? He was a long shot to make the roster.
But he was inquisitive and hungry. At practices and in the locker room, he talked constantly with Champ Bailey. One of the greatest cornerbacks in history was happy to share his wisdom with an NFL nobody.
Here’s one of the secrets Bailey shared:
NFL tacklers act tough, but nobody enjoys bone-rattling collisions. Be ruthless, Champ told C.J. Be the attacker.
When Anderson sent Toomer tumbling to the ground, you could see he had listened to Champ.
Anderson traveled rapidly from bench sitter to solid supporting actor in the Bronco drama. In 2014, he gained 335 yards rushing in wins over the Dolphins and Chiefs. In a playoff loss to the Colts, Anderson
An ugly season-ending playoff to the Colts, Anderson delivered the one bright spot. He ran only 7 yards, but it might have been the greatest 7-yard run in Broncos history.
"He broke like five tackles,” Chris Harris said later. “That right there. That’s the perfect example of a guy with so much heart.”
He will long remembered for the long run through the snow to the end zone in a 2015 battle with New England. At his best, he’s been big and powerful, but also elusive and surprisingly rapid.
The potential is there. The production has not been there. Injuries have kept Anderson stuck.
He’s healthy now, ready to show the full range of his talents.
In the third quarter, Anderson showed the fast feet that go along with his power. He sprinted to the left, looking downfield. This time, Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett was waiting.
Anderson took a hard step to his right, freezing Verrett. Anderson danced right past Verrett, who could only wave.
Anderson burst into the open, on his way to more yards, on his way to a strong 2017 season.