CINCINNATI — Film must lie when it shows Phillip Lindsay.
Game after game, defenders play as if they’re surprised by Lindsay’s speed. Players have the angle on him as he sweeps or gets the outside toss, and he beats them to the edge, anyway.
“He ran by a few folks today," said Broncos quarterback Case Keenum. “It’s a lot of fun trying to run and catch up to him to go to the end zone and celebrate."
Lindsay rushed for 157 yards – six more than Keenum passed for – on just 19 carries in a 24-10 win here against the Cincinnati Bengals at barely half-filled Paul Brown Stadium. His best carry finished with a 65-yard touchdown run in which he got outside, then made a cut in and took off down a lane that gave Denver an insurmountable 21-3 lead midway through the third quarter.
Defenders see his speed on film as they prepare to play the Broncos each week – he is their No. 1 weapon with 937 yards rushing and 1,126 scrimmage yards (rushing and receiving). He has scored nine touchdowns. But the way the defenders are slow to nab him on the edge and between the tackles,
Lindsay must be faster live than he is on tape. It looks like would-be tacklers can’t spot the 5-foot-7 ¼-inch back behind his enormous offensive linemen until it’s too late.
“I give a lot of credit to (strength and conditioning) coach Loren Landow," Lindsay said. “Before he was my strength coach with the Denver Broncos, he was my coach for prepping for the combine and pro day. He got me healthier, and he got me more explosive and back to myself. When I was at the University of Colorado, I was banged up, beat up."
Broncos defensive tackle Domata Peko Sr., the former long-time Bengal, recalled the first time he saw, and heard, Lindsay. It was after Lindsay signed as an undrafted rookie. All the rooks had to stand up and introduce themselves.
“I remember at training camp and OTAs he was wearing No. 2, and all the guys were like, ‘Who the hell is that No. 2?’’’ Peko said. “He’s making plays on us, man.’ And now the world knows, it’s Phillip Lindsay, man.
“The funniest part about it, we had introductions to meet the new guys, and Phillip Lindsay said – (and here Peko switched to a high-pitched voice to mimic Lindsay’s) -- ‘My name’s Phillip Lindsay. I’m from Colorado, and I went to Colorado.’ It’s stuck in my head forever."
Lindsay, who seems to have as much maturity as speed, took it with humor.
“Peko has never dropped that since," Lindsay said. “Every time I walk by his locker he says it. It’s a good little story."
And to think the Broncos took running back David Williams in the seventh round of the draft – just before they finished recruiting Lindsay as an undrafted rookie.
Only problem with Lindsay’s remarkable story is no matter how well he does, New York Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley and Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield are going to receive far more hype when it comes to the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Mayfield was the No. 1 overall draft pick. Barkley was the No. 2 overall selection. Calvin Ridley, another rookie having a fine season, was the No. 26 pick in the first round.
Lindsay was taken somewhere after the No. 256 and final “Mr. Irrelevant” pick.
“I didn’t get in this to win awards," Lindsay said as he walked to the team bus that would lead him out of Paul Brown Stadium. “What do you do with awards? You put him in a room and they look good. It’s about supporting your family and I get an opportunity to play football, something that I love to do. And I’m doing it at the NFL level. There’s no higher level. If people don’t like me and they like Saquon or Baker Mayfield because they drafted them? That’s on them. Good for them."
The NFL Offensive Rookie of Year watch through games played Sunday:
Saquon Barkley, Giants: 954 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 8 touchdowns, plus 74 catches for 602 yards and 4 more TDs.
Phillip Lindsay, Broncos: 937 yards rushing, 6.1 yards per carry, 8 TDs, plus 25 catches for 189 yards, 1 TD.
Baker Mayfield, Browns: 224 of 354, 63.3%, 18 TDs against 10 interceptions, 2,639 yards, 91.1 passer rating.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons: 50 receptions, 647 yds, 8 TDs.
Barkley is the frontrunner. Lindsay would like the undrafted rookie record for a season, currently held by Indianapolis’ Dominic Rhodes, who rushed for 1,104 yards in 2001. With four games remaining, Lindsay is just 171 yards away.
“I just go with the flow," Lindsay said. “My offensive line wants it. And they deserve it. So, it’s big."