The Denver Broncos are certainly known for their unbelievable passing offense, but not to be overlooked is their running game, which is one of the most efficient and under-appreciated in the NFL.
Of course, nobody will let you believe that Marshawn Lynch and Knowshon Moreno are on an even playing field, especially if you’re watching ESPN or NFL Network at all lately. They are all over Lynch right now, and feel like he’s primed for full beast mode against the Broncos.
I have nothing but respect for Lynch, who, at times is one of the most entertaining running backs in the league. He crushed the Broncos back when he was with the Bills, and I’m sad the Broncos didn’t dish out a late-round pick to get him like the Seahawks did.
Lynch is one of the best, most talented backs in the NFL, but he’s not been all that much better than Knowshon Moreno this year. In fact, you could legitimately argue that Moreno has been better, or at least more efficient and effective with his touches.
Without rounding up (or down), Knowshon rushed for an average of 4.31 yards per carry, while Lynch was at 4.18. With 60 more carries, Lynch had just one more run of 20+ yards, and two more touchdowns.
Moreno had a first down percentage rate of 22 percent, while Lynch’s was at 22.6 percent. But this is where it gets a little more interesting.
Knowshon caught 60 passes this season, compared to 36 for Lynch. Moreno also had another three touchdowns as a receiver, and Lynch added one more.
In total, Moreno edged out Lynch in total yardage by a score of 1,586-1,573, separated by just one total touchdown on the season.
So where does Seattle’s running game get its boost? It’s certainly not from the backups, who have been almost non-existent this season. Robert Turbin rushed for 264 yards and only 3.4 yards per carry with no touchdowns. Christine Michael, the rookie out of Texas A&M, ran for just 79 yards.
For the Broncos, Montee Ball ran for 559 yards and four touchdowns, while Ronnie Hillman even added 218 yards in limited action.
So, if you hadn’t guessed it yet, the real boost in Seattle’s running game obviously comes from Russell Wilson, who is one of the league’s top playmakers at the QB position. Wilson is such a good athlete and so quick on his feet, and he was able to rush for 539 yards this season while using his mobility to create something out of nothing and make big plays happen downfield.
Seattle out-gained the Broncos by over 300 yards on the ground over the course of the 2013 season thanks large in part to their style of offense and their QB, but Denver finished with two more rushing touchdowns on the year and a difference of 0.2 in yards per carry.
I’m not trying to diminish what the Seahawks do offensively, I’m just trying to bring some people back to reality a bit. The Broncos were pretty much just as good or at least efficient of a running team this season, despite the volume of carries and overall attempts favoring Seattle. The Broncos have used the running game to complement their passing game, while Seattle likes to pound the ball and wear down opponents before striking with play-action and a big play downfield.
In fact, if you look at the deeper stats, the New England Patriots are actually a more efficient running team than the Seahawks this season, and they rotate a lot of guys with a much better threat at the QB position than Russell Wilson in Tom Brady.
The running game is the focal point of Seattle’s offense, and it’s this time of year when people fall in love with the “DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS” mantra. That being said, I think you could argue Denver’s defense is playing just as good as Seattle’s over the last month, particularly against the run. I think Denver matches up well with Seattle wanting to run the football.