By Brady Henderson
NEW YORK – Taking a closer look at another key player in Super Bowl XLVIII, Denver’s Knowshon Moreno:
• Position: Running back, potential X-factor
• Height: 5-11
• Weight: 220
• Age: 26
• Experience: Fifth season
Super Bowl XLVIII is a homecoming for Moreno, who went to high school roughly 45 miles from MetLife Stadium in Middletown, N.J. He went on to play collegiately at Georgia, scoring 32 touchdowns in two seasons with the Bulldogs before he was drafted by Denver with the 12th overall pick in 2009. So began an NFL career that has had its share of ups and downs.
Moreno had a strong rookie season before injuries starting piling up, and after tearing his ACL in November of 2011 he began falling out of favor and down the Broncos’ depth chart to the point that he was a healthy scratch for much of the first half of the 2012 season.
But when Denver released veteran Willis McGahee over the offseason, it opened the door for Moreno to resurrect his career. The Broncos had just drafted Montee Ball in the second round, but their pass-heavy offense required a running back with an understanding of all the pass protection assignments and the ability to execute them. Moreno won the team’s trust and the starting job.
“He has been extremely dependable for us this entire season in the passing game, in the running game and in pass protection,” quarterback Peyton Manning said. “I’ve said this before: We are in the shotgun a lot. I just feel very comfortable with No. 27 standing next to me.”
The Broncos aren’t built around their running game, but don’t go thinking Moreno is an afterthought in an offense that attempted more passes than all but one team this season. He topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his career and was one of five Broncos to score at least 10 touchdowns in the regular season.
And he has a couple things in common with some of the running backs who have given Seattle problems. Only four players rushed for more than 100 yards against the Seahawks’ seventh-ranked run defense this season. St. Louis’ Zac Stacy (134) and Tampa Bay’s Mike James (158) had the most success.
“I feel like those running backs in particular, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay, they were patient and they ran with power,” defensive end Red Bryant said. “We like – myself included – like to attack, attack, attack, and sometimes when you get into attack mode you can create vertical seams in the defense and it really hurts the defense because all of us are depending on one another.”
So, what type of running back is Moreno?
“I tell you, from watching him on tape, he’s a patient runner and he runs with power in between the guard and tackle,” Bryant said. “You’re starting to really get an example of why he was drafted as high as he was drafted at the running back position.”
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.