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Moreno Ignites Ground Game, Broncos

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. --It felt a bit like a case of déjà vu.

Twice in the Broncos' 41-23 win over the Giants on Sunday, Knowshon Moreno took a handoff, found a crease on the outside and turned the corner. And twice, he tore up the sideline with a trail of Giants defenders in hot pursuit and outraced them to the end zone for a pair of Broncos touchdowns.

Moreno rushed for 93 yards on 13 carries, and his tandem of long touchdown runs – a 20-yard scamper that gave Denver a 7-3 lead in the second quarter and a 25-yard score that put his team on top 24-16 in the third quarter – sparked the Broncos at crucial junctions of the game.

"I thought Knowshon was really critical today," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I know today was a big game for him playing in his hometown, somewhat. Two great runs for touchdowns."

And although Moreno said after the game that playing in his home state didn't make his performance feel any more special, he credited the crisp execution of the entire offense with helping spring his running.

"The guys stayed on their keys," he said. "We were really going against a great front and a good team overall. The guys stayed together, made some adjustments and did a great job up-front, blocking."

For Moreno, the final score was all that mattered.

"Any win, it always feels special," he added. "It feels even better (to win in his home state), but if we got a loss, it wouldn't feel like that. We played a good team today and we got the win."

His two touchdowns played a decisive role in getting there.

With his team trailing in a hostile road environment and the roar at MetLife Stadium growing louder, Moreno's first touchdown put the Broncos in the lead for the first time of the game, putting a damper on the Giants' early momentum.

His second one was even bigger, setting a momentum swing in motion that remained with the Broncos for the rest of the game.

After the Giants cut the Broncos' lead to 17-16 on a 1-yard Brandon Jacobs touchdown with 3:08 left in the third quarter, Moreno's second touchdown provided a swift reply. The run capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive and zapped the energy from the stadium only minutes after it had ramped back up.

Denver never looked back, reeling off 21 straight points en route to a 38-16 fourth quarter lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Giants.

"It was awesome," wide receiver Wes Welker said of Moreno's performance. "He ran hard. He brought a lot of energy to the team and made a lot of big plays for us. That's what we need."

The two touchdowns weren't Moreno's sole contributions, however.

He broke off back-to-back runs of 7 and 10 yards on the Broncos' opening drive of the second half, which culminated in a 2-yard Manning-to-Welker touchdown pass. Later – on the same drive that he scored his second touchdown – Moreno made a heads-up play that kept the drive alive when he scooped up a Demaryius Thomas fumble and ran 5 yards farther downfield with it.

Manning credited Moreno's tough-nosed running with helping free up the rest of the offense.

"I thought he ran hard and that really opened up some things in that second half in the passing game," Manning said.

"I loved it," Demaryius Thomas added. "I love how he runs the ball. Angry, gets up fast. It was fun to watch him and fun to be out on the field with him."

For the game, the Broncos totaled 109 rushing yards – with a large chunk coming from Moreno – ultimately providing more balance to the Denver offense after a pass-heavy showing in the team's 49-27 win over the Ravens in the opener.

"It helped a lot," Thomas said. "Offensive Coordinator (Adam Gase) has been talking about it the whole time. We want to be a balanced offense. Tonight, we came out and were able to run the ball. I think it helped us out a lot."

After the game, Head Coach John Fox said that Moreno's on-field development and personal growth have shaped him into a leader on the running backs unit.

"I've seen him grow as a young man, I've seen him grow as a football player," Fox said. "I think he's definitely a leader of that running back room. I know it's big for him to come back (to New Jersey) – we had a lot of guys buy a lot of tickets this week – but I have  a tremendous amount of respect to see how much he's grown as a football player and as a young man."

And for Moreno, the final result made for a happy homecoming in front of the loved ones who had turned out to watch him play.

"Oh, yeah. It feels good," he said. "When you have family come out and support you, and get them out to the game – I know a lot of the coaches and a little bit of the family don't get to come out to the game as much – so just to have them out there enjoying themselves, it feels good."