-BRONCOS’ MORENO HAS MADE MOST OF SECOND CHANCE-
Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno holds nothing back, not even his tears, which were captured by TV cameras during the National Anthem when the Broncos visited Kansas City last month.
Moreno said in those moments before kickoff, he reflects on all the good and the bad things that have happened in his life and in football and how much he appreciates the opportunity to play the game.
That’s when the tears flow.
"I’ve always been that way, high school and in college," Moreno said via the Denver Post in December. "I guess it’s just my thing, you know? I play with my emotions on my sleeve."
Moreno has had his share of ups and downs in the NFL.
After replacing McGahee in 2012, he ran for 510 yards and three TDs in the final six games but blew out a knee early in Denver’s playoff game against Baltimore.
Without him, the Broncos were unable to run out the clock in the fourth quarter behind an undersized Hillman, which led to their loss to the Ravens in double-overtime.
That prompted the Broncos to draft Montee Ball, the bruising 215-pound Badger who scored an NCAA-record 83 touchdowns at Wisconsin, and Ronnie Hillman bulked up to 195 pounds in the offseason.
While Moreno continued his rehab from his knee injury, Ball and Hillman battled for the No. 1 job but both made too many mistakes to earn the trust of the coaches or Peyton Manning. And while all eyes were on them, Moreno — the Broncos’ biggest back at 220 pounds — quietly got healthy and brought fresh legs and experience to the equation.
This season he became the first running back in team history to top 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving, and he scored a career-high 13 TDs.
Moreno’s proficiency at catching the ball out of the backfield proved the best antidote for all the beatings Manning was taking at midseason, when opponents quit defending Denver’s record-setting offense with zones in favor of more man coverage, which freed up another pass-rusher to go after the quarterback.
Moreno is not only the Broncos’ best running back at picking up the blitz, but his sure hands keep linebackers busy in coverage or freeze them on play-action, which makes the Broncos, who scored an NFL-record 606 points, all the more dangerous.
Moreno has been a pleasant surprise to Manning, who knew what he had in targets Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas but spent the offseason wondering what he would have with him in the backfield.
Moreno’s biggest game came at New England in November, when he rushed for 244 yards on 37 carries in a game the Broncos lost 34-31 in overtime.
The rematch is Sunday when the Broncos (14-3) host the Patriots (13-4) in the AFC championship with the winner heading for the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, about an hour’s drive from Middletown, N.J., where Moreno grew up.
It’s one more opportunity he’s determined not to let slip away. (Photo: Sports Illustrated)
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