The last time Denver Broncos safety, Rahim Moore, stepped foot on the grid-iron in the post-season, his team lost a heart-breaker at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. It took two overtime periods to settle the heavyweight bout.
But it likely would never have come to that, had Moore taken a better angle and not mis-timed his jump on a Joe Flacco deep ball down the right sideline to Jacoby Jones. With less than a minute to go in the game, the Ravens were down by a touchdown.
On third-and-three, Flacco dropped back and hurled a deep ball, a prayer, to Jones. Jones was covered by Tony Carter, who should shares the responsibility of that fateful play. Moore had great position.
He tracked the ball in the air. And just when it seemed like he'd come down with it, or deflect it at the very least, the ball inexplicably sailed over his outstretched fingers and into the arms of Jones, who galloped in for a 70-yard TD, untouched, tying the game with 38 seconds left on the clock.
Following the game, Moore was the target of immense ridicule and scorn. His name was being used in the same sentence as Bill Buckner. It would have devastated the mind-set and fragile confidence of most young players. But not Rahim Moore.
He took responsibility for the faux pas, stood tall in the glaring eye of the media, and took his lumps. He vowed that he would learn from it and use it as fuel to come back better and stronger. And he did.
His 2013 season was cut short in November, due to a rare affliction known as lateral compartment syndrome. It almost cost him his leg. But in the end, he only had to relinquish the balance of his season.
Moore was forced to watch the Broncos impressive romp through the AFC playoffs from afar. And was rendered a helpless spectator in his team's brutal 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
But now, as the Broncos are poised to host the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on Sunday, Moore has the opportunity to take the field with his brothers in orange and blue and contribute to what they hope will be another deep run through the playoffs.
The accomplishment of working back from his terrible leg injury and starting every 2014 game for the Broncos at free safety, is not lost on his head coach.
“I think he’s done a tremendous job," Fox said about Moore this week. "Obviously, you bring up that particular play [against Baltimore], I think it speaks a lot for him, as a young man and human being as well as a football player. I think he’s played good football for us. He’s had a very good season, and he’s a big reason why we’re where we are defensively.”
Moore has arguably had the best season of his professional career, notching 49 tackles and 4 interceptions (career high). This earned him a +0.3 cumulative grade via Pro Football Focus. Playing next to the versatile T.J. Ward has afforded him the opportunity of playing the deep center-field role in the secondary.
As a result, Moore has finally displayed flashes of the ball-hawk the Broncos hoped he'd be, when they drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. He hasn't been perfect, but he's been a steady hand on the back end of the Broncos secondary.
Looking ahead to Sunday, Moore was recently asked about the significance of being on the field for playoff football. But if he's looking at the game eager to atone for that cold day in January of 2013, he's not showing it.
“I’m not eager for anything," Moore said Monday. "I’m not anxious. I just want to go out there and have fun and just play as a team. If we do that I think we’ll be fine and I think that we’ll be able to contend.”
If there's one attribute that Rahim "the Dream" Moore has exemplified as a professional football player, it's confidence. Which considering what happened vs. the Ravens two years ago, is remarkable and deserves respect.
“If you don’t have any confidence," Moore said, "you might as well not even suit up because you have to have some confidence. But at the same time, don’t be overconfident. Don’t think that you’re all that and a bag of chips. In this league, anybody can be beaten any given day. If you’re not getting beat, you’re not playing the game. But at the same time, you want to limit the times you get beat."
Moore knows that he and his brothers in the secondary face a very stiff task in trying to defend against Andrew Luck and his versatile arsenal of weapons. With Luck's allusiveness and mobility, Moore and the secondary will have to stay on their assignment a little bit longer than vs. the average gunslinger.
“We were watching film on them versus the Bengals," Moore said about Luck. "I don’t know what his (QB Andrew Luck’s) completion percentage was but he pretty much completed every ball. If nothing’s there, he’s checking it down. He’s taking shots. He’s making all the throws. He played a perfect game and it’s kind of scary. You hope he doesn’t play a perfect game against us but you’re definitely going to get his best because he’s that great of a quarterback. I believe that he’s going to be a future Hall of Famer, first ballot. That’s just my opinion.”
That's some high praise for a young player who's yet to make it to the Super Bowl, let alone win one. But no matter one's opinion of the future Hall of Fame chances of one Andrew Luck, his athleticism and will to win cannot be be understated.
For Rahim Moore and the Broncos, they get the chance on Sunday to either contribute to the legend of Luck, or throw a big monkey wrench in his career narrative. Either way, the fact that Moore will even suit up and play is a miracle, considering his life-threatening injury and long rehab.
Moore has an impressive track record vs. Andrew Luck. He picked him off twice in Week 1. But will Moore find some post-season redemption vs. Luck and the Colts on Sunday? We'll know soon enough.