How the Ravens plan to attack Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the dominant storyline surrounding Saturday’s AFC Divisional playoff contest. But another concern revolves around Knowshon Moreno.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back gashed the defense for 118 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries in the Ravens’ 34-17 loss to Denver on Dec. 16. Moreno became the fourth opponent to rush for more than 100 yards against the defense in the regular season, and several members of the run unit said they are looking forward to getting another crack at him.
“It hurt,” outside linebacker Albert McClellan said. “It was a dagger. But he had to work for them. We know he had to work, and I’m pretty sure he knows he had to work for them. Not to take anything away from him, but their team had a good scheme for us that last time. So big ups to them for that game.”
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Moreno, who replaced Willis McGahee (torn right knee ligament and right tibia fracture) for the final six games of the regular season, averaged 85 rush yards over that span, ranking sixth in the NFL.
An effective Moreno can help alleviate some of the pressure on Manning and the Broncos pass offense, Manning said.
“Certainly, I think you want to be balanced,” the quarterback said during a conference call with Baltimore media Tuesday. “I think we’ve done a decent job of being balanced with the run game and pass game. Knowshon has stepped in for us and done a heck of a job. He was inactive for a large part of the season. That’s not easy to do, to all of a sudden just turn it on and come in there and play in this offense. So it’s a real credit to him for being prepared. He was obviously studying during the time that he was inactive, and when his number was called, he stepped in and has really done a good job for us.”
Moreno impressed the Ravens with his ability to wait patiently for his blockers to open a running lane and burst through. A capable receiver who has turned in four outings of at least 100 total yards from scrimmage in his six starts, Moreno is a threat also on third down.
But Moreno’s biggest impact is carrying the football, and defensive end Pernell McPhee said holding Moreno under 100 yards shouldn’t be the only goal.
“To me, even if a running back has 50-plus [yards] on us, you get the attitude and demeanor of ‘I wish we could play him one more game,’” he said. “Now, we’ve got the opportunity to play this game and face him again, and I know for sure that we’ll do a better job than we did in the first game.”