DENVER- In the last two drafts, the Denver Broncos have spent high picks on running backs. Yet, this season it has been all Knowshon Moreno when it comes to the Broncos running game. That was the case once again during the Broncos 35-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Moreno stood early in the game when quarterback Peyton Manning, facing 3rd and 20, dumped the ball off to him and he powered his way to a first down. That led to a Manning touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas, but Moreno’s day was only getting started.
The fifth year back was a constant receiving target for Manning, leading all Broncos receiver in targets (10) and receptions (seven). When the Broncos found themselves with the ball inside the Jaguars’ 10-yardline, their preference was to hand Moreno the ball and let him try for the touchdown. In all, Moreno went for over 100 total yards and scored three touchdowns.
“Knowshon was huge. His red-zone running was huge,” Manning said. “I thought the running game got going a little bit better second half. We had better first and second-down production. And then he caught the ball well. We had a couple incompletions on first down. That’s been kind of rare for us. We have been really good on first and second-down completions. Talk about staying in phase, we had some first and second down incompletions which made it more difficult for us on third down. Knowshon was awesome, especially down there in the red zone.”
His three rushing touchdowns upped his season total to seven, making him the NFL’s leader in rushing touchdowns. For the majority of Moreno’s career, he has either underperformed or been bitten by injury. He found himself deactivated early in 2012, only re-emerge as the top back when Willis McGahee went down with a knee injury.
Since then, he has been Denver’s best running back. Initially listed third on the depth chart in the preseason, he came into the regular season as the starter due to his reliability both running the ball and in pass protection. His consistency in 2013 has added an element of balance to a vaunted Broncos offense, but Moreno still thinks he can play better.
“(I give myself) like a C. A ‘C’ is good enough,” Moreno said. “It was good enough today but it’s not good enough to win games down the road. They played a really good game all day and we made some mistakes. There is still a lot that we have to fix.”
That has been the message following each of the Broncos six wins this season. Even during the blowout wins, the coaching staff and players have stressed that mistakes need to be cleaned up if the Broncos are going to make a push to win the Super Bowl.
“Mistakes are mistakes. You don’t want to see them, you don’t want to have them,” Moreno said. “We put too many balls on the ground, and that’s what is going to get you beat. At the same time we are happy we came out with the win against a good team, and now we have to move on.”
The Broncos will indeed move on, but their next game will be of increased significance for their quarterback. The Broncos travel to Indianapolis next Sunday where Manning will play the Colts for the first (and possibly last) time since Manning was cut by the team after the 2011 season.
The Colts are planning a tribute to Manning during the game, but the former Colt isn’t letting himself worry about what’s tom come at Indianapolis just yet.
“I’ll probably cover that on Wednesday. Do I have to talk Wednesday still,” Manning joked. “Okay, I’ll do all that Wednesday. I’m going to enjoy this victory and we’ll be ready to play come the rest of the week.”