ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The wave of memes, gifs, and Tweets that came after Knowshon Moreno shed two giant-sized teardrops after the national anthem before a game a month ago led to several feature stories about the difficult circumstances the 26-year-old Broncos running back overcame to get to the NFL.
But for his quarterback, Peyton Manning, the tribulations he’s seen Moreno push through in just two years is more than some players deal with in their careers.
“I’ve truly only known Knowshon for two years but he has been through a lot just in the two seasons we’ve played together,” Manning said. “Last year, when I signed here, he was rehabbing a significant [ACL] injury and wasn’t exactly sure how the roster was going to play out.
“Then, during the season, he was doing scout team, which is definitely a humbling moment for any football player that has been a starter and a first-round pick. Then this past offseason again, probably unsure on a roster position.”
On the brink of being written off, Moreno turned in his best seasons as a pro: 1,038 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, plus 548 receiving yards and three more scores.
Whether it’s pass blocking, running the ball, or catching passes out of the backfield, Manning said Moreno has been one of the Broncos’ most dependable pieces.
“I sure have appreciated all he’s done,” Manning said. “Just in the two seasons we’ve been together, he’s been through an incredible journey as well. His attitude has been great and I sure do like having him next to me in the shotgun. It makes me feel real comfortable.”
Landing on the scout team could have been rock bottom for Moreno, but he treated those touches like game-day carries. Eventually, the door opened again and he took every opportunity to enhance his role
“Just basically learning each week and trying to get better each week,” Moreno said. “You never play a perfect game — definitely not me — and I try to correct those mistakes and move forward each week and get better.”
Manning’s presence, he says, has helped speed that along.
Of all the things he’s picked up from the Manning, Moreno said the biggest was “just how to be a pro.”
“He demands so much,” Moreno said. “He demands perfection. That kind of rubs off on a lot of guys — offensively and defensively and as a team. So I just try to go out there and do my best and make sure I’m in the right places.”
Gase on the case
For offensive coordinator Adam Gase, the chance to help the Broncos reach their first Super Bowl since 1998 outweighed the opportunity to interview for head coaching vacancies. Gase pulled the strings on the league’s top offense this season, and in the process became a hot commodity. But he chose to put off all interviews — most notably with the Cleveland Browns — until after the playoff run. “I just felt like I was all in for what we were doing here,” Gase said. “I just didn’t want to stand in front of our players and say one thing and do something else. I felt like it was the most important thing for what we needed to do for this team.”
Meeting with success
Giving up 337 yards in a Week 15 loss to the Chargers was reason enough for the Broncos defense to call its own meeting. Looking back, it may have been a pivotal moment. In three games since, the Broncos have held opponents to an average of 251.3 yards, and no team has scored more than two touchdowns. “I think that was a bit of a turning point,” said linebacker Paris Lenon. “I think guys were playing well in spurts. It just hadn’t been a complete game. After that situation, after that loss to San Diego, we go to Houston and played more complete in that game. Then we went to Oakland and played more complete in that game, and then obviously last [Sunday].” . . . Hartford native Terrance Knighton expects his two younger bothers to have conflicted allegiances this weekend. They all grew up Patriots fans. “It’s kind of like a split household right now because I grew up a Patriots fan,” Knighton said. “But they’re mostly concerned with my success right now. After the game, we’ll handle that.” . . . Former Broncos wideout Rod Smith, who spent his entire 12-year career in Denver, won two Super Bowls, and was inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame two years ago, will serve as honorary captain Sunday.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.