DENVER --When he touched the ball in the red zone on Sunday, Knowshon Moreno made sure to make it count.
Moreno scored three touchdowns in the second half of the Broncos' 35-19 win over the Jaguars, with all three of the running back's scores coming on runs from inside the Jacksonville 10-yard line – and all three scores giving the Broncos a crucial lift in distancing themselves from a determined Jaguars team.
"His red-zone running was huge," quarterback Peyton Manning said after the game. "Knowshon was awesome, especially down there in the red zone."
Moreno's touchdown hat-trick moved him into the league lead with seven rushing touchdowns on the season. More importantly, however, his penchant for finding the end zone ensured that the Broncos put up points when they moved the ball deep into Jaguars territory – something that was pivotal to the game's final outcome.
"He really had some great runs that allowed us to stay in the game," tight end Julius Thomas said. "If we have to run it, if we have to throw it or whatever it is – we're going to do what we have to do to put points on the board."
Moreno's touchdown trifecta began when he barreled into the end zone from a yard out on the Broncos' opening drive of the second half, giving Denver a 21-12 lead with 12:16 to play in the third quarter.
At that point, however, the running back was merely getting warmed up.
After the Jaguars trimmed the Broncos' lead to 21-19 midway through the third quarter, Moreno helped provide a strong response on the ensuing drive.
On third-and-2 from the Jacksonville 8, Moreno took a handoff from Manning and burst up the middle, fighting through four Jaguars defenders and powering into the end zone.
The touchdown capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive and effectively seized the momentum back for the Broncos – something that Denver would never cede the rest of the way.
"When you're putting points on the board to help your team out, that's all that matters at the end of the day," Moreno said.
Moreno's encore – a 3-yard touchdown scamper with 9:09 remaining – capped the scoring and effectively put the game out of reach for the Jaguars.
"Just going out there trying to make plays," Moreno said. "At the end of the day, that's all it was. We were just trying to make plays as an offense, as a team and playing for each other."
Moreno's contributions ultimately were felt all over the field on Sunday.
He finished with 42 rushing yards on 15 carries, and he added 62 receiving yards on seven catches – including a key 28-yard reception on 3rd-and-20 on the Broncos' opening possession that kept the drive alive and led to Manning's 3-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.
Despite playing well enough to win, however, Moreno pointed out that the offense left much room for improvement.
"Like a 'C.' A 'C' is good enough," Moreno said of how he would grade the offense. "It was good enough today, but it's not good enough to win games down the road. They played a really hard game all day and we made a lot of mistakes."
At the end of the day, however, the final result on the scoreboard was the most important statistic for Moreno.
"We're happy that we came out with the win versus a really good team," Moreno said. "Now we've got to move on."