ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There was a time this season when the Denver Broncos were closing in on the bottom of the league’s barrel -- they were 31st in Week 3 -- when it came to running the ball.
But over the last seven games the Broncos have averaged 128.4 yards rushing per game, a total that includes five games of at least 134 yards rushing and four games with at least 150 yards rushing. They have climbed to No. 17 in the league in rushing after Sunday’s games, a spot that seemed to be out of the question after a 43-yard rushing day in Oakland on Oct. 11. At that point, it was the Broncos’ fourth game with fewer than 70 yards rushing.
"We have to establish our dominance as being the Broncos," running back Ronnie Hillman said following Sunday’s win in San Diego. "We have to continue to win and just keep winning and keep stacking them … I think we can do that if we keep running the ball like we have been, just staying with it."
The Broncos still have had a clunker or two in recent weeks -- 35 yards rushing in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts last month and 69 yards rushing the following week in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. But overall, they liked where things have been trending -- at least until C.J. Anderson's ankle injury Sunday against the Chargers.
Anderson, who left the game at halftime and did not return, had 42 yards on his seven carries against the Chargers to go with a 12-yard catch-and-run reception. Before Sunday, he had a season-best 113 yards rushing against the New England Patriots with a 48-yard touchdown run in overtime that was the game-winner.
"He took a pretty good blow to his ankle (against the Chargers)," said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. "He’s had some ankle issues in the past. I think probably had we not had the other two, I think, he could have tried maybe to fight through some of it, but he was very sore (Monday).’’
Anderson received treatment Monday and is expected to receive more in the days ahead as his practice time will likely be impacted at least some this week. Hillman has been the "starter" for the last six games, including Sunday, and will be the starter this week against the Oakland Raiders.
The Broncos would use Juwan Thompson in the rotation if Anderson can’t play and do have running back Kapri Bibbs on the practice squad if they believe they need to make a short-term roster move until Anderson is healthy.
But the Broncos are also thin at safety, and there may be more urgency through the week at that position to make a short-term roster move. Also, to move a player like Bibbs -- he was signed to the active roster for one week earlier this season -- or cornerback Taurean Nixon from the practice squad to the roster requires either exposing a younger player to waivers to make room or releasing outright a player with more than four years experience.
A player on waivers can be claimed by any team. Also, to move a player back to the practice squad the player has to clear waivers as well.
It’s why Kubiak has called any and all potential decisions a "day-to-day thing,’"and the Broncos could wait until as late as Saturday to make any roster moves after they’ve seen who practices and how much those players are able to do by the end of the week.
"We have some issues to deal with and we’re trying not to get too far ahead right now," Kubiak said. "We’ll just get to Wednesday and get back to work."