Jack Dempsey/Associated Press file photo
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press file photo
DENVER – The Denver Broncos are sticking with young safety Rahim Moore.
Moore allowed Jacoby Jones’ 70-yard touchdown catch in the final minute of regulation in the Broncos’ playoff game the Baltimore Ravens won in double overtime on their way to winning the Super Bowl.
John Elway, the Broncos’ vice president of football operations, and coach John Fox both said Moore made great progress last season, and they have confidence he’ll put the blunder behind him and make even greater strides in 2013.
With free agency looming and the draft approaching, the Broncos said they feel good about their safeties, including Quinton Carter, who is recovering from knee surgery and could push Moore for playing time in training camp.
“We anticipate both of them to come back even better,” Fox said at the NFL combine last week.
Elway said Thursday on 104.3 FM The Fan radio station in Denver that there’s no thought at team headquarters of moving Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey to safety next season, either.
As the AFC’s top seed, owners of an NFL-best 11-game winning streak and odds-on favorite to win it all, the Broncos thought they’d be the ones hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans. Instead, the Ravens parlayed their stunning comeback in Denver into winning the rings that Peyton Manning and Von Miller were so confident they’d be getting fitted for about now.
The business of 2013 beckons, however, and the Broncos are moving on.
While fans may salivate over the likes of free agents Ed Reed and Charles Woodson or any number of younger safeties about to hit the open market, the Broncos’ brass continues to praise Moore for the progress he made last season and insist his wasn’t the only costly mistake that hurt them in the playoffs.
“Rahim had a great year,” Elway said at the NFL combine. “The strides he made from his rookie year to this year were tremendous. We expect him to make those same strides, and I think the bottom line is for him – I haven’t seen him since the last game, but once he gets back and around his teammates – there are a lot of things in that game that caused it to end up the way it ended up. It wasn’t one play that caused us to lose.
“I’m happy with him, and I think I was really impressed with him and how he handled it after the game. He stood up, and he took it, which to me showed a great amount of maturation on his part. I’m looking forward to him coming back and even having a better year next year.”
Fox took just as much heat as Moore did over what happened next – ordering Manning to take a knee so Denver could take its chances in overtime rather than trying to move into field goal range with three timeouts and 31 seconds to work with.
“Once the season is over or after the Super Bowl, I think the reality is that everybody is 0-0, or undefeated or however you want to put it,” Fox said. “Any loss kind of sticks with you – scars, I might say – but you have to spit it out and get onto the next season and not let it linger and affect your preparation moving to the next season.”
Elway has been down this road before, and he’s optimistic a similar payoff awaits. The Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-front office executive now has been a part of two playoff runs that ended with questions about what went wrong in an early exit from the playoffs.
Elway experienced it as a player in 1996, when the Broncos were upset at home by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-27, but then came back and won the next two Super Bowls.
He once again finds himself picking up the pieces after a disheartening loss.
The Broncos’ stars all stumbled in that 38-35 loss: Manning had three turnovers, including an interception that led to the winning field goal; Bailey got burned repeatedly; Ryan Clady was playing with a torn rotator cuff that would require surgery and wasn’t anything close to his usual dominant self as Manning’s blindside protector; and Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for just one sack.
All those poor performances were overshadowed, however, by the many mystifying mistakes that Moore, their second-year free safety, made on Jones’ 70-yard touchdown catch from Joe Flacco with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Moore lined up too shallow and allowed Jones to blow past him after leaving cornerback Tony Carter, who failed to jam at the line of scrimmage, in the dust. Then, instead of going for the tackle, Moore tried for the interception on Flacco’s 50-yard high-arcing heave but mistimed his jump.
Moore took the blame after the game and promised to make good, saying, “I’m going to keep my head high, and next time the opportunity comes, I’m just going to make it for my team. I’ll just make the play.”
The Broncos said they’re willing to give him that chance.
Ed Andrieski/Associated Press file photo