Denver Broncos: Knowshon Moreno Providing the Balance That Denver Needs to Win

Joe Rapolla Jr.Featured ColumnistOctober 11, 2013

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 23:  Running back Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos rushes against the Cleveland Browns during a game at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on December 23, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Browns 34-12. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The 2013 Denver Broncos campaign has been, thus far, an overwhelming success. Led by veteran quarterback and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, the Broncos have jumped to 5-0 behind a high-powered offense that features a plethora of receiving targets that defenses must try to account for. Essentially, Manning is like a spoiled kid with way too many toys, and he's taking full advantage of playtime. 

There's no denying that the passing attack is leading the Denver offense and thereby winning games for the Broncos. Of the 29 touchdowns that Denver has scored this year, 20 of them have come through the air, and with that, the Broncos are boasting the highest passing yards/game average (373.8) and Manning's passer rating is set at a sick 136.4. With a completion percentage of 75.8 and only one interception after 198 pass attempts, it's fair to say that defenses have been completely overwhelmed by the Manning-led Denver passing game. 

Rarely does a team in the NFL win, however, without a balanced attack, and for this, Knowshon Moreno must be credited for supplying a complimentary ground game to Peyton's passing bonanza. Moreno's stats may not be flashy and Denver has certainly been a pass first team, yet the emergence of Moreno as a formidable threat on the ground has given defenses yet another component to worry about when matching up against Denver.

Not only must defenses try to keep up with DeMaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, but they must also remember that Moreno is averaging a healthy 5.1 yards/carry. 

The guys over at ESPN aren't going to be running features on the Denver ground game. Denver ranks only 15th in the league in average rushing yards/game (116.0) and Moreno, the team's preferred back over Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball, has received only 65 carries through five games. The rushing attack is not what is winning Denver games and it's not capable of carrying them should they suffer any serious setback to the receiving corps or, God help us all, Peyton Manning. 

Knowshon Moreno is adding another piece to the puzzle for opposing defenses, however, and he's doing so very efficiently. Despite ranking 20th in the league with 65 rushing attempts this season, Moreno has the tenth most rushing yards with 331. Not bad for a guy who, before the season, was supposed to be splitting time with Hillman and Ball. 

Moreno's efficiency has surprised not only fantasy football players but the Broncos as well. This explains why, as of the past two games, Moreno has become essentially a featured back in what was previously a shared position. This explains why Moreno has four touchdowns to Ball's zero and Hillman's one. Most importantly, this explains some of why Peyton Manning has been allowed to be an offensive freak this season. 

When running the ball is simply not an options, defenses can adjust accordingly. The result is usually not very favorable for the offense. Consider Peyton's kid brother, Eli, and the New York Giants for example. With running back Ahmad Bradshaw gone, Andre Brown injured, and David Wilson not living up to expectations, the G-Men are basically defenses "we can't run the ball, so don't even bother defending against it."

The Giants are certainly an honest team and defenses have listened. They rank 29th in the league with an abysmal 67.8 rushing yards/game. (Somehow the St. Louis Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, and, of course, Jacksonville Jaguars have put together worse campaigns.) With the running game a non-threat for defenses, coordinators can focus their attention on dropping guys back into pass coverage and blitzing the passer. The result: Eli leads the league with the 15 interceptions and the Giants are 0-6 following last night's loss to the Chicago Bears. Ouch. 

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos hands off to teammate Knowshon Moreno #27 against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patric
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It takes balance to win in the NFL, and no one should ever argue otherwise. If there's a great offense, it's made up of a passing and running game. If there's a stifling defense that's soaking up all of the media's attention, there's an offense that is, at the least, doing it's job. Some people say that defense wins championships; I'm a strong proponent that no championship is won without a multi-faceted, balanced attack. 

Knowshon Moreno may not be going to the Pro Bowl for his efforts this year, but thanks to him, Peyton Manning is able to propel Denver past opposing defenses. As a result, Moreno and his Broncos teammates may be enjoying something much sweeter than a Pro Bowl trip this February.