The orange blur swooshed in front of his face, and suddenly he saw this splotchy, disgusting, trodden grass. For a running back in the fourth quarter, well, that's like seeing a sunset.

Left offensive tackle Chris Clark elevator-doored the hole for his fellow orange-clad Bronco, and Knowshon Moreno's third-and-1 run sealed Denver's playoff win last Sunday against San Diego.

"I've got to get it," Moreno said of that first down with 1:12 left, and the Broncos up 24-17. "We've got to get that first down. And that is basically what my mind-set was. ... I think everyone just dug deep, went out there and did what we had to do to come out with a big victory."

TDs notwithstanding, this isn't T.D. Terrell Davis was the league's MVP in 1998, and he ran for 167 yards in the AFC championship game that season. Shoot, Moreno isn't even a first-tier NFL back. But his indefatigable attitude — He runs! He catches! He blocks! He cries! — makes him a key figure in the AFC championship game Sunday against New England. Also consider that this postseason has been all about the running backs.

And in November, Moreno gobbled up 224 rushing in that wacky Broncos overtime loss at New England. In what will likely be a close game Sunday, Moreno will have moments when he will make or break a drive.

"We're going to try to stay as balanced as we can," he said.

Moreno finished with 82 rushing yards against San Diego on 23 carries (3.6 yards per carry), and while he wasn't Marshawn Lynch, running from Seattle to Walla Walla, he was able to keep drives alive. Moreno ran for six first downs, including two on the Wes Welker touchdown drive early in the game that made it 14-0. Quarterbacks throw into virtual windows, while running backs slip through cracked doors. And on one particular run on that drive, Moreno slipped through the line and accelerated for an 11-yard gain while CBS broadcaster Phil Simms gushed, "He made himself small.