History doesn’t faze Phillip Lindsay.
What he achieved Sunday night in the Broncos’ thrilling 20-19 win over the Raiders wasn’t on his mind in the ecstatic locker room — only the victory.
As a Denver native, he knows this win — one over the rival Raiders — means more than others, and the small, personal victories mean even less.
“It means a lot,” Lindsay said. “Coming from here and understanding the rivalry, just being able to win and to be able to look up to one of my idols in Marshawn Lynch and watch him out there, it’s a surreal moment.”
But what he’s done in his first two games is also surreal, as much as he minimizes it for himself. With 107 rushing yards and 4 receiving yards, Lindsay recorded his second game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in as many games — the first time an undrafted player has ever done that in his first two games.
“He had 14 [carries] for 107 [yards],” Head Coach Vance Joseph said. “He had a big run for us and finally broke a play for us. He is a good football player — not only as a running back, but as a guy who covers kicks for us and a guy who catches the ball for us. He is a total package as a football player. He’s been impressive. He’s been really impressive.”
That big run Joseph mentioned — Lindsay’s 53-yard sprint on a draw play in the second quarter — was the longest play by either team Sunday. Though the drive ended with an interception, the play showcased Lindsay’s explosiveness and elusiveness, something that you can see almost any time he touches the ball. Whereas more physical backs may gain an extra yard or two simply by embracing contact and falling forward as they’re tackled, Lindsay tacked on extra yardage to his runs on Sunday by twisting around tackles. Even without his 53-yard scamper, Lindsay would have averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
And it’s not just his production that has been impressing his teammates. The way he’s carried himself as a rookie has also made a mark — one that reminds guard Ron Leary of 2016 NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott, who was a rookie at the time.
“I think Phillip is a real confident kid, man,” the former Cowboys lineman said. “He reminds me a lot of a rookie I had in Dallas in ‘Zeke’ in that when he’s in the huddle, he’s telling us, ‘Hey, just make a little crease and [I’ll] hit the hole.’ That’s something you want to hear from a running back, because you know up front it’s not going to always be pretty. But when you’ve got a running back — and him and Royce do a great job of it, and ‘Book’ [RB Devontae Booker] — they do a great job of just making us look a lot better than what we are, just hitting the holes the right way.”
In Leary’s recollection, rookie running backs often are more reserved.
“Most rookies, they don’t say too much in the huddle, but this group of rookies we have, they’re real confident guys,” Leary added. “And they work hard; that’s where their confidence comes from. They put the work in during the week. That’s why they can be like that on game day.”
Lindsay, who consistently demurs when asked about his accomplishments, gave all the credit to Leary and the rest of the offense, which has paved the way to his 178 total rushing yards, which ranks third in the NFL through Sunday night.
“I mean, the offensive line was movin’ ‘em,” Lindsay said. “That’s all I can say about that. They’re out there working their butts off. The receivers are out there blocking. I’m just doing my job.”
That mindset is the same reason why his new NFL benchmark doesn’t mean much to him. This is just going to work — doing the job at the standard to which he holds himself.
“I don’t think of things like that,” Lindsay said. “For me, it’s just a great opportunity to go out there. I’m just happy that we got the ‘W’ and it’s on to the next.”
With the same kind performance by him, and of course by the offensive line, the next game could hold another new NFL record and, more importantly, another win.