Tatum Bell is just 23 yards from becoming the sixth different tailback to notch a 1,000-yard season in Mike Shanahan’s 12 seasons as Broncos head coach. He’s found these final yards before hitting the milestone to be the hardest to attain.
“I’ve got to be the slowest back to get to 1,000,” the third-year back said Wednesday.
A year earlier, he went into the season finale at San Diego needing 131 yards for a 1,000-yard season that would have made the ’05 Broncos the first team in 20 years with a pair of 1,000-yard runners. Bell scored three times but ultimately fell 79 yards short.
Coming close last year has only made this year’s pursuit of a grand that much more frustrating.
“It means a lot, man, because I felt I should have had it last year,” Bell saud. “Right now I’m right around the corner with (about) 20-30 yards. I’ve got to get 30 yards. I don’t care, man. There’s no excuse if I don’t get 30 yards.”
It’s been a roller-coaster season for the 2004 second-round pick, who has started every one of the 12 games in which he’s played this year. At times, he’s been dominant, notching five 100-yard games so far this year, including back-to-back triple-digit tallies against Seattle and San Diego earlier this month. They were his first games back from turf-toe problems that had dogged him since the Week 7 win at Cleveland on Oct. 22, and all signs pointed to a dominant December after his post-injury efforts.
But a pair of fumbles in the last two games has helped send Bell reeling into the season’s final game. The one at Arizona was scooped up and returned for a touchdown; his giveaway against Cincinnati on Christmas Eve led to a Bengals score that gave them a halftime edge over the Broncos.
As he struggled, rookie Mike Bell took up the slack and flourished, gaining 61 yards against Arizona and 69 more against Cincinnati while scoring three times in those two games.
But Tatum Bell knows this: More fumbling and he could be headed for the bench — whether he’s broken 1,000 or not.
“After this game, (Shanahan) told me, ‘It’s all good; put it behind you; you’ve got to learn to get over that stuff,’” Tatum Bell said. “(That’s) stuff I already know. I know if I fumble I won’t be in there for a series or two.
“Especially if I fumble and Mike goes in there and does well — (then) I sure won’t be in there.”