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Broncos Running Back Duo Closing in on Historic Feat

Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams have a real chance to make Broncos history this season.

In George Paton’s first year on the GM job, he’s already fulfilling his goal of ensuring the Denver Broncos are playing meaningful football in the month of December. Denver defeated the Detroit Lions 38-10 in an emotional game following the unexpected passing of former WR Demaryius Thomas, putting the Broncos one game above .500 with a 7-6 record that keeps the team alive in the AFC playoff hunt. 

The Broncos will host the 7-6 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and this game will have a host of playoff implications in a tight AFC North and AFC West with just four regular-season games remaining.

While Sunday’s win was emotional for the fan base and team, running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams did something no Broncos backfield duo has accomplished since 1962. Gordon and Williams each scored two touchdowns vs. the Lions, carving out a slice of Broncos history and the duo might not be done. 

If Broncos OC Pat Shurmur continues to pound the rock during the final handful of games, Gordon and Williams could become the eighth pair of teammates to each rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. The last time a Denver duo got close to the dual-1,000-yard mark was in 2005 when Mike Anderson totaled 1,014 (and 12 touchdowns) while Tatum Bell came just shy with 921 yards (and eight scores). 

Gordon and Williams have combined for 1,459 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging a combined 4.65 yards per carry. As a team, the Broncos currently rank No. 5 in the NFL with 350 attempts, demonstrating a commitment to the rushing attack. 

The Broncos sit below the league average for total yards per game at 345 but boast the 12th-best rushing offense, averaging 123 yards per game. The Broncos also saw their points per game average increase to 21.2 since last Sunday, which directly correlates to the running game.

Both Williams and Gordon have a real chance to be the first pair to each post 1,000 yards rushing each since QB Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram did it in Baltimore in 2019. How likely is the Broncos' duo to achieve the feat? Let's examine. 

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Gordon's Path to 1,000

If we’re being honest, Gordon may not be the ideal fit for Broncos Country, which has struggled to relate to the former Chargers first-rounder. Gordon’s first year in Denver was largely overshadowed by the presence of Philip Lindsay in the room but in 2021, his running style and production on the ground have unquestionably fit. allowing the Broncos to be above .500 in December for the first time in a while.

The seventh-year former Pro Bowler has rushed for 716 yards and seven scores,  averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Gordon has forced 21 missed tackles and is credited with 19 explosive plays of 10 yards or more in 12 games. 

Gordon’s only missed game this season came in Week 13 at Kansas City due to a hip injury, but he resumed his starting role against the Lions on Sunday. In his latest performance the 6foot-1, 215-pound veteran carried the ball for a season-high 24 rushes and logged his second 100-yard game of the season.

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Gordon has also been credited with 22 receptions for 166 yards and two more scores that give him 882 total yards for the season. He’s currently 284 yards shy of the 1,000-yard rushing mark and would need to average 71 yards per game tto close out the season to attain it. 

The 28-year-old is also set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022 and is unlikely to be re-signed by the Broncos in the offseason. Just because Gordon’s tenure in Denver is almost over doesn’t mean that his usage and yardage is all for nothing. 

If he rushes for 1,000 yards, it’ll only be the second time he’s done so in his career and the first time since 2017 with the Chargers. More milestones mean more money for Gordon on his future contract with another team.

Williams' Path to 1,000

After the Broncos moved up in the draft to select Williams in the second round this past draft, Hall-of-Famer Terrell Davis described the pick as one of the best fits in the draft. Boy, was TD right. The former two-time Super Bowl champion immediately recognized the same traits Paton did in Williams — a special football player.

The former North Carolina product has already earned AFC Rookie of the Week honors in addition to Good Morning Football's ‘Angry Runs.’ Williams' highlight reel is repeatedly featured on networks as the rookie has logged a whopping 53 forced missed tackles and 3.59 yards per contact per rush in 13 games. 

Williams has totaled 743 yards on the ground and three touchdowns and is currently ranked 10th-best in the league with 4.8 yards per carry. Although he has only started one game for the Broncos, the rookie back has also been utilized in the passing attack, recording 34 receptions for 279 yards and three more scores.

The 5-foot-10, 210-pound bruiser has recorded a total of 1,022 yards and six total scores coming off the bench in all but one game. He's only the ninth Broncos rookie all-time to produce 1,000-plus total yards from scrimmage. 

There’s little doubt in the mind of Broncos Country, let alone the league, that Williams is the future of the offense for seasons to come. He just needs 257 more rushing yards to hit the 1000-yard mark, specifically 64.25 yards per game over the next four weeks.

‘Pookie’s’ next opportunity to run angry will come this Sunday at home against the Bengals, who currently rank fourth-best in the league in rushing defense, allowing 93.1 yards per game. Cincy is stingy, to say the least. Williams has already demonstrated wisdom and production beyond his years so I doubt he’ll have any hesitation when facing the Bengals this weekend.

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