Breaking Down Knowshon Moreno's Breakout Game Against the Giants in Week 2

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 15:  Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos runs in for a touchdown past Antrel Rolle #26 of the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 15, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It was a banner day for former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno against the Giants.

The oft-maligned running back helped his team achieve a big victory, scoring twice on big running plays. After a lackluster Week 1 performance despite a surprise start, Moreno's fantasy star is unexpectedly rising. After all, just a month ago he was an afterthought behind second-year back Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball.

Knowshon Moreno is emerging from the muddy Broncos backfield with his 2nd TD today. Denver leads Giants, 24-16.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 15, 2013

Knowshon Moreno fantasy owners are dancing like Cousin Terio right now.

— SportsNation (@SportsNation) September 15, 2013

Knowshon about to put stranglehold on lead RB gig. RT @Chet_G Denver's next 6 don't look so tough OAK, PHI, @DAL, JAX, @IND, WAS

— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) September 16, 2013

But should you wish upon that star? Or was last week a mirage? Let's see what the tape has to say.

Big Score, Prelude to Another 

This was the first of Moreno's two big rushing touchdowns, a toss-sweep out of the shotgun that wound up going for a 20-yard score. His second touchdown was eerily similar.

As you will note, the play is largely successful because of simple math—there are only five relevant defenders at the line of scrimmage, and there are enough blockers to deal with them. This is because Denver has its 11-personnel in, with Wes Welker to worry about in the left slot, while the Giants are in their nickel package.

This was a textbook example of excellent execution on Denver's part and poor defense on New York's.

The keys to this play are Broncos tackle Orlando Franklin and Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams. The latter has a chance to engage the former, thus taking him out of the play downfield.

Unfortunately for Williams, this play escalates quickly.

To begin with, Williams had to worry about a huge cutback lane for Moreno. Not that Moreno is LeSean McCoy or anything, but if Williams committed to the outside too early, Moreno would have had a nice gain back toward the middle.

The slight delay caused Williams to get caught in blocking traffic. Franklin was able to just chip defensive end Justin Tuck into Williams en route downfield, which is what got Moreno all the way to the end zone.

In short, Denver picked the perfect play, executed it flawlessly, and New York offered little resistance. It's reasonable to think Ball or Hillman would have had a similar result had one of them been in the game instead of Moreno.

Of course, in the land of "what-ifs," anything can happen. What if Moreno gets 25-30 touches after last week? Moreno got into the end zone twice, and he very well could have won a bigger role with his performance.

Bucking Reputation 

Here is a play from the second half, when the Broncos really began to gash the Giants, and Moreno was wielding the broadsword. Did anyone expect this three weeks ago?

Linebacker Mark Herzlich is highlighted here because his inability to shed a block is what sprung Moreno. More on that below.

At this point, Moreno had just run for seven yards to the strong side off left tackle, so Denver tried the same play to the right. Shockingly, the play worked again as Moreno ate up another 10 yards. 

This was another beautifully executed play for the Broncos. The blocking was set up well, and players sustained their blocks. Demaryius Thomas sold the route, taking Corey Webster with him downfield. 

Moreno did a nice job here, but it could have been a nicer run.

You will note the arm tackle attempted by Herzlich and defensive tackle Linval Joseph here. Had Herzlich been able to slide off his blocker a bit earlier, he would have closed the hole and Moreno would have had a moderate gain.

Where Moreno could have been better is his decision once he flitted through that hole. Had he straightened out, he would have had downfield blocking and a huge gain.

Maybe he didn't trust he could escape the arm tackles if he made the adjustment back toward Joseph. Moreno doesn't exactly have Jamaal Charles-like burst, after all.


Upon closer inspection, Moreno looked more spry than anticipated. 

His 25-yard touchdown was sort of a hybrid of the two plays dissected above—it was an off-tackle run to the right out of the 22 formation with excellent blocking and poor defense that allowed Moreno to get outside and all the way to the end zone. 

Like the first touchdown, Ball or Hillman might have had similar results. Do Moreno's stats belie the truth?

Ball nearly got the same number of touches as Moreno—he had 14 to Moreno's 16. However, the former fumbled into the end zone early, and the latter scored two touchdowns and averaged nearly 7.2 yards per carry.

Maybe this shouldn't be surprising. After all, Moreno has actually had a nice streak dating back to last season. He scored the fifth-most fantasy points through the last four weeks of the 2012 season by virtue of scoring four touchdowns.

Knowshon has double digit fantasy points in six of his last seven games. Crazy.

— Ryan Boser (@Ryan_Boser) September 17, 2013

Could it be Moreno is healing his plodding reputation? Or is he setting up his fantasy owners to be bamboozled? 

After all, he is barely averaging 4.0 yards per carry for his career, and he averaged a nauseating 3.1 in Week 1. Not every team has the middling linebacker corps the Giants do.

One thing that seems sure—his fantasy value might be at its peak. He has scored multiple touchdowns four times in four years, and the most he has scored in one season is nine, back when he was a heavily used rookie.

If there is any doubt Moreno can keep this up—and there should be, given his history and the fact he is still splitting time in his own backfield—you should trade him while he can fetch a good price.


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