Broncos safety Rahim Moore shut off his phone service in the weeks after the “Mile High Collapse.”
The now 23-year-old was tired after receiving a career’s worth of criticism following one giant, monstrous gaffe that ended the Broncos’ season prematurely.
He himself told reporters he cost the Broncos their season while clearing out his locker back in January. And then, like the rest of his teammates, he went home wondering “What if?”
In truth, there was a lot that went into the Broncos’ 38-35 postseason loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. But make no mistake about it; Moore is the poster child of the Baltimore Miracle. And he’s the face of Denver’s epic meltdown.
And so, moving forward, the big wigs at Broncos headquarters must decide if Moore should stay or go.
Looking back, Moore was more good than bad last season. The second-year player brought a sense of physicality to the team’s secondary, fitting himself nicely in the Broncos’ starting free-safety position.
In fact, in his first-full season as a starter, Moore was rated a top-10 safety by ProFootballFocus.com – high marks for a player who couldn’t hold onto the job the year before, as Quinton Carter took much of his playing time in 2011.
This past season, the site even pointed out how Moore only missed one tackle in every 11.1 attempts – one of the highest marks throughout football at the safety position in 2012.
“I feel so good being a part of all this,” Moore said in the middle of the season. “I feel like I’m a part of this, which I didn’t feel like I was last season. I feel like I can be big for this team.”
And most of the time he was.
On the field, Moore had 72 total tackles in 2012, and interestingly enough, a secondary-high seven tackles in the team’s lone postseason game.
And when he was off the field last season, Moore had the makings of leader. He took blame when blame was due, and always pushed credit towards the rest of his teammates.
In the words of Broncos columnist Paul Klee, he had maturity that blew away “even the most cynical of journalists.”
In fact, when the media approached, he would usually smile before answering any and all questions with a sense of undeniable confidence. To put it frankly, if you met him, you’d be hard-pressed not to like him.
But alas, there were some questions in Moore’s game.
And for a fan base that has been spoiled with greats at that position such as Steve Atwater, John Lynch and Brian Dawkins – the questions were in bold.
Moore’s biggest knock throughout his 31-game career is his playmaking ability – it’s been in hiding. He was a solid free safety for the Broncos last season, but he only had one interception and one fumble recovery. (Making that two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in his past two seasons.) For a guy who was noted as a magnet to the ball coming out of UCLA, where he had 14 interceptions in three years, his numbers haven’t translated in the pro game.
The other knock on Moore is that his head hasn’t always been in the right place. That includes when his head is, in fact, mashed into another receiver’s helmet.
Throughout 2012, Moore was consistently flagged, including a personal-foul call when he bludgeoned Steelers’ receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The hit cost him $21,000 and cost the team a near loss.
“When that (penalty happened), I was like ‘Man, I don’t need any more money taken from me. I want to enjoy my money – give it to my mom and take her on a nice trip. I play the game to make plays,” said Moore after his penalty lead to a Steelers touchdown, before Tracy Porter’s pick-six saved the game for the Broncos in week one. “It was a dumb situation on my behalf.”
Unfortunately for Moore, nobody remembers any of those things when his name comes up.
They all remember him for one miserable, frustrating play that cost the Broncos their Super Bowl hopes last season. They all remember a cold and gloomy Saturday night, when the Ravens were all but KO’d.
Down 35-28, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco rushed up to the line with 42 seconds remaining in the game, buried back at his own 30-yard line. Flacco, still a questioned quarterback at the time, knew a field goal would do no good. He needed a miracle.
Flacco then snapped the ball and sat back before he rifled a pop fly down the sideline just over the outstretched fingertips of Moore, into the hands of Jacoby Jones, who would race to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game in front of a stunned Sports Authority Field.
Moore’s only responsibility on the play was to keep the receiver in front of him. Instead, he looked like he was misplaying a fly ball in his first little league game a decade before.
Eventually, the Broncos would go on to lose more than a quarter later in double overtime. And while Champ Bailey was burned twice for touchdowns and Peyton Manning threw a rookie-looking interception in overtime, Moore was the center of the blame.
After the game, the young safety took the heat head on, as he told reporters after the game that he was going for an interception, instead of knocking the ball down, which he was instructed to do.
“There’s never an ‘I’ in win. But there’s an ‘I’ in lose,” Moore told Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post and Mile High Sports Radio. “Because when you lose, you’ve got to look at yourself.”
Now, all of Denver is looking at him.
In the history of this state’s professional sports, he’s the closest thing Denver has to a Bill Buckner, whose error cost the Red Sox a World Series title nearly 27 years earlier.
And while Moore’s blunder doesn’t have the history or significance of Buckner’s, which was shadowed with the then-70-year-old “Curse of the Bambino.” Moore also didn’t have the career of Buckner, who was previously a batting champ and a consistent All-Star first baseman.
As for Buckner, he was released the following season. And as for Moore, he awaits his sentencing.
It’s decision time for the Broncos.
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