Everyone remembers the play. It’s 3rd and 3 with 42 seconds to play and Joe Flacco takes the snap out of the shotgun in an empty backfield. Robert Ayers doesn’t beat his man with a bull rush, so he spins to his left in an attempt to shed the block but instead leaves plenty of room for Flacco to step up in the pocket. Scanning the coverage, Flacco spots Jacoby Jones streaking down the field, past Tony Carter who failed to jam Jones at the sideline, and then heaves it. Rahim Moore takes a horrible angle in coverage and allows Jones to get behind him, then mistimes his jump (if you can call it that) and the bail sails over his head. You know the rest.
In that sequence alone, there were at least three Broncos who made mistakes and several more who were non-factors in preventing one of the most gut-wrenching plays in franchise history from happening. Coach John Fox refused to give the offense a chance to retake the lead before overtime, despite having two timeouts at his disposal, and later on Peyton Manning threw a terrible interception that set the Ravens up for the game-winning score. The Broncos wouldn’t even have found themselves in that position if Matt Prater converts his field goal attempt earlier in the game, which wasn’t even close. Champ Bailey was burned twice for touchdowns and the vaunted pass rush led by Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil managed to sack Flacco just one time. Combine all of that misery with the fact that we had to listen to Dan Dierdorf ramble on for around four hours about how much he loves the Ravens and I’m surprised that more Broncos fans didn’t jump off a bridge after the game was over.
Bad memories aside, my point is that there was more than enough blame to go around and a number of players to point the finger at, and yet we always come back to Rahim Moore’s gaffe on that play. His fuck up is burned into our collective memory not solely because it was an inexcusable mistake, but also because he committed it at the worst possible time. If Rahim suffers from his brain fart at any other point earlier in the game, I think it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have faced nearly as much scrutiny from fans and the media. To his credit, Rahim began working on atoning for his blunder the very next day and appears to be entirely focused on putting it behind him and becoming an even better player in 2013. And it would be unfair to forget the strides he made from his first season, which made his miscue all the more surprising.
Coming out of UCLA, Rahim was the top-rated safety in the 2011 NFL Draft and I was thrilled when the Broncos took him. The team had milked the very last ounce of football out of Brian Dawkins and the players alongside him weren’t getting the job done, so there was a glaring need at safety. I thought Rahim would fill that hole and become a mainstay on the Broncos defense, but he was a major disappointment in his rookie season. The lockout clearly took its tole; Rahim started just seven games that year and became so lost that he even found himself on the inactive roster for a couple of games. That’s not exactly the best way to endear yourself to your new teammates and fans, so Rahim worked his ass off the next offseason and emerged as a starter from day one in training camp, becoming a key component of a defense that finished the season ranked second overall in the league.
Then the play happened, and Rahim went from being a reliable starter to being the symbol of the Broncos playoff misery in one fell swoop. That’s what happens when you screw up that badly. Now that the shock has worn off and enough time has passed by, I think a great deal of the animosity that the fans had for Rahim has been removed, mainly because they recognize how vital he is to the Broncos’ secondary. And if you’re still pissed off, consider this; not only does he have the highest ceiling of any of our safeties, but his competition includes Mike Adams (an average stop-gap player), Quinton Carter (missed all of last season due to injury), David Bruton (a career special-teams player) and Quentin Jammer (a corner who the Broncos hope can play safety). Not exactly the most competent list of replacements should Rahim falter, so if you haven’t gotten around to forgiving him yet, it’s time to move on.
Though his catastrophic postseason slip-up wounded me just as much as any other Broncos fan, I continue to support Rahim Moore. One bad play shouldn’t wash out the promise that he showed in his sophomore season, but at the same time no one is ever going to forget about what happened against the Ravens. While he may never be an elite, play-making safety in the mold of Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed, I believe Rahim is still capable of becoming an anchor on the Broncos defense, one who can help this team win a lot of games and lock down the back-end of the secondary. Look for him to continue to improve in 2013, but if Rahim is truly going to achieve redemption, he can’t afford to stumble again once the playoffs come around. His reputation around here depends on it.