Numbers Never Lie: Broncos Can Run With Seahawks

Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) rushes the ball against New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins (91) in the second half during the 2013 AFC championship playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Smart move.

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.

NAME ATT YDS AVG LONG 20+ TD YDS/G FUM FUML 1DN
Knowshon Moreno 241 1038 4.3 31 5 10 64.9 1 0 53
NAME ATT YDS AVG LONG 20+ TD YDS/G FUM FUML 1DN
Marshawn Lynch 301 1257 4.2 43 6 12 78.6 3 1 68

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.

Topics: Denver Broncos, Knowshon Moreno, Stats, Super Bowl

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  • Kelle

    This is what I have been telling people. And Denver’s defense has been slightly better than Seattle’s at stopping the run all season. The two defenses were tied at rushing yards per game in the regular season, but Denver’s run defense has been better than Seattle’s in the post season. Both New England and San Diego came into their games as big rushing threats and were shut down almost entirely. Denver can take away the run game and force Wilson to take more risks in the passing game.

  • Jason Schiffner

    This entire thread fails to understand the fundamental difference of AFC vs NFC football. The AFC is a pass first offense. Moreno’s opportunities are opened up, because safeties play deep and linebackers play conservative against the Broncos. The NFC, however, is a run first conference. Kelle, you are being intellectually dishonest, or you just don’t understand the averages. You see, the NFC runs the ball more often and Seattle faced far, far greater run attempts from opposing teams. Once you consider the average of run yards allowed to run attempts, then you will quickly see how much better the Seattle D is against the run. Additionally, every team that plays the Seahawks knows they are going to run Lynch 20+ plays, so they stack the box. Yet, he still runs through their tackles and puts up big numbers. Since when are New England and San Diego run threats?

    • Kelle

      LOL Your entire comment was “intellectually” dishonest”, and biased toward the NFC. Mostly it showed complete and utter ignorace about the AFC teams and the Broncos opponents. You clearly know very little about who the Broncos played this season. The Broncos faced and held 5 top 10 running backs to under 100 yards this season. LeSean McCoy to 78. The Eagles with the number 2 rushing offense are NOT a pass first team. They held Jamal Charles under 100 yards twice. The Chiefs are NOT a pass first team. They held DeMarco Murray to 48 yards. All 3 of them are ranked above Lynch with more rushing yards and higher yards per carry averages. McCoy is 2nd behind Adrian Peterson in yards after contact. The Broncos held Alfred Morris to 68 yards. The Redskins with their number 5 rushing offense are NOT a pass first team. It is more than apparent that you exclusively follow the Seahawks, if you don’t know about the Patriots and Chargers running games. The Patriot rushing numbers are very similar to the similar to the Seahawks. The Patriots rushed for 6.7 less yards per games than the Seahawks on 39 less attempts. Their yards per carry average was higher and they scored 5 more rushing touchdowns than the Seahawks. They rushed for 137 yards in their game against the Panthers.. The Patriots made it into the playoffs on the stregnth of their rushing game. They were on a streak of 4 straight games with 200+ rushing yards.The Chargers rushed for 12 less rushing yards per game than the Seahawks on 21 less carries. They were coming off a divisional series game in which they rushed for 196 yards against the Bengals number 5 rushing defense. Once you come out of your delusions about the Seahawks and the NFC you will see how much better the Broncos are at stopping the run. The Seahawks did NOT have more rushing attempts against them this season. The Broncos defensive line is ranked 3rd. The Seahawks is ranked 16th. The Broncos are number 1 at stopping runs up the middle while the Seahawks are 15th. The Broncos are 9th at tackles behind the line of scrimmage while the Seahawks are 13th. The Broncos are ranked above the Seahawks in 2nd level coverage as well. The only place the Seahawks are better at stopping the run is in the open field. It would seriously do you some good to pay attention to all teams around the league. It will keep you from making ridiculous unintelligent comments like this.

      • Jason Schiffner

        Well, Kelle, I can’t really blame you for your ignorance. It turns out everyone from Denver misunderstood what they were going to face in the Super Bowl. One key metric you failed to pull up in your research was the 2013 Strength of Schedule. The Broncos were 32nd, as in, they played bad teams all season long. John Elway’s schedule manipulating and bought talent for a team worked to get his team to the big game, but once they had to face a real defense, it became clear those techniques don’t win Championships. AFC football is weak. The Denver defense and special teams are abysmal and the offense is mediocre when matched against a proper defense.

    • Kelle

      By the way, while the Broncos were busy holding 5 top 10 running backs to under 100 yards, the Seahawks didn’t even play a top 10erunning back this season.

    • Kelle

      Broncos
      Week 1 Ravens 21 attempts
      Week 2 Giants 19 attempts
      Week 3 Raiders 17 attempts
      Week 4 Eagles 35 attempts
      Week 5 Cowboys 14 attempts
      Week 6 Jaguars 27 attempts
      Week 7 Colts 31 attempts
      Week 8 Redskins 28 attempts
      Week 9 Bye
      Week 10 Chargers 44 attempts
      Week 11 Chiefs 25 attempts
      Week 12 Patriots 31 attempts
      Week 13 Chiefs 25 attempts
      Week 14 Titans 22 attempts
      Week 15 Chargers 44 attempts
      Week 16 Texans 26 attempts
      Week 17 Raiders 20 attempts
      —————
      429 attempts
      Seahawks
      Week 1 Panthers 26 attempts
      Week 2 49ers 20 attempts
      Week 3 Jaguars 24 attempts
      Week 4 Texans 35 attempts
      Week 5 Colts 29 attempts
      Week 6 Titans 20 attempts
      Week 7 Cardinals 18 attempts
      Week 8 Rams 37 attempts
      Week 9 Buccaneers 38 attempts
      Week 10 Falcons 16 attempts
      Week 11 Vikings 33 attempts
      Week 12 Bye
      Week 13 Saints 26 attempts
      Week 14 49ers 33 attempts
      Week 15 Giants 14 attempts
      Week 16 Cardinals 43 attempts
      Week 17 Rams 18 attempts
      ————–
      430

      The Seahawks defended 1 whole rushing attempt more than the Broncos. You can fell free to check my work, but it is accurate.You can find rushing attempts in the box scores. Not only is acting like an expert on something that you really know little about “intellectually dishonest”, it is also a lot like assumptions in the way that it makes you look like an ass.

  • scotthumble

    Other than the NFC fanboy’s ridiculous response, I have to say that this article and the comments are very insightful and interesting. Lynch is obviously a talented and powerful back. He is no Terrell Davis but he is solid. In all the games I’ve seen, they almost always seem to run him up the middle. I just don’t see that working out well for them.