DENVER — It was a seven-yard run that didn’t mean a thing. It was a seven-yard run that meant everything.
It wasn’t the run everyone was talking about. It’s the run that might best prove the Broncos are Super Bowl contenders.
And you can thank the unlikeliest of heroes for it.
The once-maligned Knowshon Moreno took a first quarter handoff and made just one cut before introducing his shoulder to the unsuspecting chest of Ed Reed, driving him and another eventual tackler back seven yards.
Just in case they hadn’t felt the impact, Moreno got in the faces of a few Ravens to issue a reminder.
That was until the whistle blew.
Holding, Broncos. Ten-yard penalty. Replay the down.
As far as the box score in the Broncos’ 34-17 win is concerned, the play never happened. But the concern couldn’t have been more evident on the faces of a once-feared defense.
What happened to “No Show,” the guy who got benched for dancing in the backfield before the whistle?
He’s still got the moves. But these days, he’s saving most of them for after the whistle.
The same running back who once aroused so much doubt that he wasn’t trusted to run in the first quarter of an Oakland Raiders game would go on to get the call on third and goal against the best red zone defense in the NFL Sunday.
After he strolled into the end zone, he partied hard. Considering he spent eight weeks cooped up on the bench despite being completely healthy, can you blame him?
Some bullheaded Bronco fans will. They’ll be the same ones trying to ignore the run everyone was talking about — the vintage Moreno leap over a human hurdle (once again, it was Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed).
And it’s too bad. Those fans are missing out on the party of nastiness and swagger that Moreno’s teammates have all joined in on.
Did you see straight-laced Eric Decker get in Cary Williams’ face after the cornerback gave him a post-play cheap shot?
Did you catch the confidence in the postgame comments from the otherwise soft-spoken Chris Harris? The budding star shrugged off the accusation that he was nearly caught from behind by quarterback Joel Flacco at the end of his 98-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“I was just striding,” Harris said. “I didn’t need to run.”
Were you around when Jack Del Rio, Ward Cleaver haircut and all, did everything short of throwing a haymaker at a replacement ref in the Atlanta Falcons game during Week 2? Von Miller may be as likable as he is charitable, but did you happen to see him Supermanning on top of Cam Newton in Week 10?
These Broncos are brash and brazen. They’re bullies. And they made one of the NFL’s most reputable antagonizers look like Malibu Barbie during their ninth straight win Sunday.
Gone are the “hand ball to referee, shut mouth” days of Willis McGahee, whose yards per carry have finally become as modest as his personality. Moreno is too perfect a back to lead this band of brutes.
He’s talented. He’s tough. He’ll let you know about it.
And it’s a good thing, too. Because San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose confidence oozes out of every pore that isn’t covered in ink, just let the world know what happens when you bully the New England Patriots.
So long as they keep their new-found edge, the Broncos won’t.