He was an afterthought.
Knowshon Moreno didn't appear to be a big part of the Broncos offense, at least that's how it looked from the outside.
But the Broncos, along with Moreno, had other plans this season.
Moreno had a career year in 2013, rushing for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his five-year career. He also added 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Not only did he show that he was going to be a part of the offense, he showed that he was to be a key part to this offense.
|Knowshon Moreno's regular season numbers|
|2010 - 2012 (3 Years)||357||1,483||4.15||9|
Moreno had an impact for the Broncos offense in the regular season, but he's getting his touches in the playoffs as well.
In the Broncos two playoff games, Moreno had 40 touches and 175 yards combined, rushing and receiving.
But don't sleep on Moreno because he'll be getting action too.
In these championship games, there's always somebody that steps up and makes an impact you didn't necessarily see coming.
For the Broncos, it could be Moreno.
The Dominant Seahawks defense
Much has been made of the Seahawks defense.
It's hard to be even a casual fan of the NFL and not be aware of the talent on the defensive side of the ball for the Seahawks.
Simply put, they're athletic, disciplined and have the size up front to wreak havoc on an offensive game plan.
But specifically in run defense, the Seahawks finished the regular season tied with the Broncos for seventh in the NFL, yielding just over 100 yards per game on the ground.
In the two playoff games, the Seahawks have been challenged up front.
|Seattle Seahawks run defense|
|New Orleans Saints * Playoffs||26||108||4.15||1|
|San Francisco 49ers * Playoffs||28||161||5.75||1|
|Regular season average||422||1,626||3.9||4|
Not that the Broncos would want to get away from their bread and butter—which is simply putting the ball in Manning's hands—but Moreno's 15-20 touches may make the difference in this game.
The key for Moreno will be taking advantage of the handful of times he has the opportunity to make a big play.
Because he has a quarterback who's known for getting the offense out of bad plays, Moreno will get some looks against the Seahawks with favorable matchups.
But what is it that Moreno does well that could make the difference?
Let's take a look at a couple of plays from the two playoff games and see where Moreno could make his impact.
In this play in the Divisional round against the San Diego Chargers, you'll see Moreno read what middle linebacker Manti Te'o is doing.
Once Te'o commits to the outside, Moreno presses up the hole in the middle and finishes off the run by lowering his shoulder and falling forward.
In the bottom right, you can see Moreno get his pad level underneath the defenders, which allows him to pick up an extra five yards on the end of that run.
This next play is against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Moreno loves to bounce plays to the outside and this is a great look at doing just that.
A play similar to this might develop against the speedy Seahawks defense if they over-pursue Moreno on a play up the middle or to the opposite side.
He sees the opening to the outside and turns it back the other way for a big gain. Seahawks standout safety Earl Thomas will most likely be the one cutting this play off in the championship game, but Moreno will always be looking for green grass, which he can always find on the outside.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Moreno averages 5.7 yards per carry running off the left end, outside of the tight end, and 5.9 yards per carry off the right end.
These are the two best rushing areas for Moreno of the eight listed in PFF's stats.
The Seahawks defense is predicated on speed and athleticism, which would negate these outside runs for Moreno, at least on paper. That is unless they over pursue.
When teams were playing nickel and dime defenses, they had more speed on the field and helped cut off those outside runs for Moreno.
It's strength on strength in this mini game inside the game.
Moreno will get 15-20 touches in this game and a handful of those will be going nowhere, thanks to a lightning quick Seahawks defense.
But there's going to be a handful of plays that see Moreno with open field in front of him. The outcome of this game could ultimately come down to how Moreno handles those plays.
The Seahawks defense doesn't give you much, but when there's an opportunity presented to pick up chunks of yards, you have to take advantage.
So far this season Moreno has answered the call when presented an opportunity like that.
He may not be a complete secret, but with all of the talk and buzz surrounding Manning leading up to this game, don't be surprised when Moreno steps up and makes the few plays that make the difference.