The Broncos don’t beat their opponents into submission with their running game. They don’t normally line up, telegraph what’s coming, and dare the defense to stop it. They don’t dominate opposing defensive lines with regularity. This becomes clear when you see them try to pound the ball out of an obvious run formation in a short-yardage situation. Because they are reliant on good looks at the line of scrimmage to pick up yards on the ground, they need a back who can take advantage of the scarce fronts they see. Knowshon Moreno has done a great job of that so far this season, but against the Seahawks’ fast defense, it might be wise to give Montee Ball a few more touches.
It isn’t a myth that Peyton Manning is largely responsible for the success of the Broncos running game this season. When teams gear up to stop the pass by sacrificing defenders in the middle of the field, Manning takes advantage and attacks with the run. But the Broncos’ Week 7 game against the Colts stands out as one where Denver just couldn’t capitalize on the 5 and 6-man boxes they saw.
The biggest reason for this was the team speed on the Colts Defense. Indianapolis might not have been great against the run in 2013, but they were a good matchup against the Broncos because safeties LaRon Landry and Antoine Bethea can fly around the field.
In that game, Landry and Bethea aligned far from the line of scrimmage, clearly protecting against the pass. When Manning saw all of the empty space in the middle of the field, he’d often (but not always) change the play to a run. But Bethea and Landry were able to attack the line of scrimmage so quickly that before Knowshon Moreno could take advantage of the room he had at the beginning of the play, he had these two pesky safeties all over him. In effect, they were able to guard against the pass and the run simultaneously.
Moreno simply wasn’t able to take advantage because he isn’t an especially quick back. He hasn’t shown the ability to regularly break through the defensive line and pick up an extra 10 yards in an instant. He’s a hard runner, one who grinds out yards, but also one who doesn’t have much burst once he gets past the first level of defenders. And this hurt him against the Colts.
Rookie Montee Ball, on the other hand, is more capable of taking advantage of empty space in front of him. Ball has good feet, is quick between the tackles, and gets upfield faster than Moreno does. He, like Moreno, runs hard, and he’s gotten better and better each week. It’s not a coincidence that Ball has gotten more touches as the season has progressed. Through his first 6 games, he only carried the ball 43 times for 139 yards (3.23 avg) with no touchdowns. After not registering one rushing attempt against the Colts, Ball has become more involved in the offense, carrying the ball 99 times for 515 yards (5.2 avg) with 4 touchdowns in the last 11 games. Because he’s a more effective counter to the Seahawks’ speed on defense, and also because of Knowshon Moreno’s rib injury, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Montee Ball get more action on Super Bowl Sunday.