A lot of football fans believe that Knowshon Moreno will be MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII. Why? Largely because they believe he is the engine that will drive the Denver Broncos to victory. Analysts and prognosticators alike have spent weeks highlighting the showdown between the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Doom” and Peyton Manning along with his cast of talented receivers. Many argue that this match up will be the deciding factor in Super Bowl XLVIII. The story that is less talked-about, but which may be the true key to victory for the Broncos is an emotional and determined running back from Belfair, New Jersey.
This running back is none other than Knowshon Moreno. This former Georgia Bulldog came to Denver in the 2009 NFL Draft. He was taken thirteenth overall, and was the first running back selected in the 2009 Draft. Bulldog enthusiasts recall Moreno as a special running back. Knowshon broke onto the college landscape as a red shirt freshman. He earned his first start against Vanderbilt University. At first, he split time with veteran running back Thomas Brown. Brown never materialized in the NFL. The rising star from Georgia seemingly was going to follow suit, but after leaving Georgia as a reds shirt sophomore, Moreno brought hope to a Denver Broncos football team that specialized in zone running.
Prior to Moreno’s signing, the Broncos were disappointment by several previous running backs. Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson, Quentin Griffin and another former Dawg, Olandis Gary, comprised the list of running backs who struggled in the Mile High City. The hype that initially surrounded each of them was quick to fade. The highly touted draft pick was on track to be added to that roster of busts. In 2012, Moreno’s troubles intensified when he was sidelined with an injury. In the 2013 NFL Draft, Denver selected another running back, Montee Ball. Ball, who was a workhorse at the University of Wisconsin, holds the NCAA Record for total rushing touchdowns. Denver seemingly found a new candidate to be their featured back.
As events unfolded, 2013 would be a banner year for Moreno. The maligned rusher ran with purpose, and played with an unparalleled intensity. Peyton Manning would throw for over 5,000 passing yards, shattering Drew Brees’ single-season passing mark. Manning would also break Tom Brady’s single-season touchdown record with 55 to Brady’s 52 in 2007. The Denver Broncos offense would break New England’s all time scoring record in a single season. Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker would combine for forty-nine of the fifty-five Manning six-point tosses.
Moreno, however, was also in some elite company. Moreno finished fifth overall in the NFL, with 1,586 yards from scrimmage. Knowshon would march for 13 total touchdowns , 10 on the ground and three through the air. He compiled over 1,000 yards rushing and over 500 receiving. This statistic placed the once-fallen star in a category with only two other NFL running backs for the 2013 season. It makes for a fairly impressive resume for this dark horse candidate so many are starting to believe will be taking the Super Bowl XLVIII MVP award.
While many anticipate the Manning versus “Legion of Boom” struggle to be historic, Moreno might well be the reason why the Broncos win or lose the 2013-2014 NFL crown. From a strategic perspective, the best remedy for an offense to keep an opposing team’s defense on its heel is establishing the running game. Establishing an effective running game affords the Denver Broncos the opportunity to manage the clock and keep the Seahawks defense off the field. The Broncos defense has been rattled with injuries, as three key starters remain on the disabled list. Any assistance from the offensive side will go a long way toward protecting the injured defensive squad.
Seattle’s offense is dynamic in its own right. Russell Wilson is a dual-threat quarterback that can beat a team with his arm and his legs. Wilson can strike with precision and accuracy. He does not throw a lot of interceptions. Number 3 is even more frightening in his ability to evade defenders and gain extra, yet essential, yardage for the Seahawks. Combine this with an all-pro running back in Marshawn Lynch, who is a brutal and menacing rusher, and the Seattle’s offense could score points against this porous Broncos defense. The Denver offense has carried the weight of the team’s ambitions all year. Seattle knows this too.
Look for Seattle to play a lot of man-to-man, press coverage. Seattle’s best cornerback, Richard Sherman, will be assigned to cover Denver’s best passing option, Demaryius Thomas. This showdown will be the spectacle of the evening. Anticipate Thomas to struggle with the task of getting open against this relentless defensive back. Maxwell and Thurmond will keep tabs on Decker and Welker. The battles between these four could go in any direction. Slugger Kam Chancellor will be set against freak tight-end Julius Thomas. This match-up has all the zest of the Thomas and Sherman showdown, but will be all the more cataclysmic. Both participants are extremely physical players.
Seattle is going to look to spring its corps of linebackers on Peyton Manning. Anticipating excellent coverage by their secondary, the Seahawks will dial up many blitz packages. The goal of these blitzes will be to pressure and throw off the timing of this potent Denver offense. In light of this, Knowshon Moreno has the potential to emerge as the hero and savior of the Denver faithful.
The Broncos will have to start off with a heavy dose of Knowshon Moreno. The man is a physical and elusive runner, able to run through defenders and run over them as well. He can run with a lead blocker or out of the ace formation. He can catch the ball out of the backfield or he can burn you with his speed on a screen. The Broncos will have to utilize their crafty back early and often to gain the advantage. If the Broncos can establish Moreno early, it will force Seattle to play closer to the line. If this occurs, Manning will have an opportunity to test the waters deep; potentially exposing a mismatch against Seattle’s back seven.
Only just a year ago, he was sidelined with physical injury and limitless scrutiny. Now, number 27 has the chance to take on a new role: Super Bowl MVP. If the Denver Broncos emerge victorious on Sunday, it might be that it will be attributed to the play of the Broncos lead back. It may pay not bet on Peyton Manning to take the trophy, but rather to put money on Knowshon Moreno from the University of Georgia.
By Keith Fuchs