Rahim Moore, the Denver Broncos’ young and promising free safety, was pulled out at half time of the Kansas City Chiefs game due to severe pain in his thigh. After an examination and continued pain throughout the night, Moore was diagnosed with lateral compartment syndrome and went into emergency surgery on Monday night. The team has reported that the third year safety is out indefinitely, with no real timetable for return due to the freakish nature of the injury, but one thing is for sure, he will certainly be sidelined for the New England Patriots game this upcoming weekend.
Though Moore will likely never live down the last minute, game tying, Hail Mary pass he over played in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs, he has become an integral part of the Broncos’ defense this year, and will be sorely missed against this aggressive Patriots offense.
Moore is incredibly athletic and extremely versatile. Despite his small stature (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), he is very physical, especially in pursuit. Yet, because of his size, he also possesses the speed, quickness and cover skills of a corner back. Consequently, he ranks in the top five in tackles, passes defended and interceptions on the team. Not only does he directly affect the opposing team’s passing offense, but also their ability to effectively run the ball. This diverse skill set would have been incredibly pertinent against an unpredictable Patriots offense.
After the loss of almost their entire receiving corps last offseason, the Pats have tried to become more of a balanced offense this year by leaning heavily on their running game (ninth most rushing yards per game in the NFL), and taking pressure off of their unproven receivers by allowing them to run short underneath routes. However, the Pats are unquestionably more effective when Tom Brady is looking down field.
However, due to the inexperience and overall lack of elite talent in the receiving corps, Brady relies on the team’s veteran players at the tight end and running back positions, like Rob Gronkowski, Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen, to spread the field and run deep routes. They are, without a doubt, the key to this Patriots offense, and they will be more than likely covered by the Broncos’ safeties.
The most intriguing matchup problem for the Broncos during the absence of Moore is who, or how, they decide to cover Brady’s favorite target – Gronkowski. Gronkowski has only played in four games this year and is clearly being restricted by his coaching staff, however, he is becoming healthier each week, and the Pats will likely involve him very heavily in their game plan in order to keep up with the high scoring Broncos’ offense – especially after the loss of Moore.
The Broncos already have a banged up secondary – Chris Harris, Champ Bailey, Duke Ihenacho and Kavon Webster have all already been hurt and are currently recovering. The loss of Moore, therefore, is especially bad at this point of the Broncos’ season. Moore will have to be replaced by either Mike Adams, David Bruton or a little bit of both. However, while Adams may be a very experienced veteran, he no longer possesses the athleticism and physicality to effectively disrupt Gronkowski, and Bruton has been strictly a special teams player for his entire five-year career and will likely struggle in coverage.
To aid the defense during Moore’s absence, the Broncos will likely use a number of different cover combinations in order to cover Gronkowski and the Patriots’ backs coming out of the backfield. Harris is perhaps the best slot corner in the league, and the Broncos’ linebackers are fast enough to cover the running backs on short routes. This strategy will limit the Broncos’ ability to bring pressure, but it will also limit Brady’s ability to be effective and keep up with Peyton Manning and the high scoring Broncos offense.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.