Pot Roast Will Be Served
After watching the AFC Championship Game on tape this week, I think we’re going to be talking much more about 340-pound Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton’s play in the Super Bowl than his nickname.
Cool nickname. Pot Roast. Happened when his first team, Jacksonville, was flying home from a game in Seattle his rookie year, 2009. "Long flight home," Knighton said. "The food that night was shrimp alfredo or pot roast. I’m not a seafood guy, so I got the pot roast. So the guy sitting behind me on the plane was Clint Ingram, who was like the biggest comedian on the team. He says, ‘Oh, pot roast. You’re saying that like it’s your name. I’m going to make that your new nickname.’ It ended up sticking with me. I’m just glad I ordered the pot roast, not the shrimp alfredo."
Knighton and linebacker Danny Travathan were Denver’s best defensive players against New England in a game that was not nearly as close as the 26-16 final indicated. Travathan’s speed behind a gap-proof defensive front helped wreck the Patriots passing game. He made an amazing play to ruin a New England drive in the second quarter with the Pats trying to narrow a 10-0 deficit, covering fullback James Develin out of the backfield on a route up the right side, then sprinting back as Julian Edelman caught a short cross, cutting his legs out after just a two-yard gain. He was around the ball all game. I can see Travathan in the film room today, studying Percy Harvin and Marshawn Lynch (Harvin certainly last season in Minnesota too, because of his limited play this year) and figuring out how to make plays around the line of scrimmage against one very speedy player and one very strong one. Travathan has shown all year long he can play both speed and power with equal skill.
Knighton made four stops in the run game for one yard or less against an offensive line that had steamrolled two straight teams. Seattle center Max Unger had better work overtime studying Knighton’s moves. The Denver lineman just killed New England center Ryan Wendell. On a first-quarter run by LaGarrette Blount, over left tackle, Knighton quickly shed Wendell and shoved aside pulling tackle Marcus Cannon; Shaun Phillips got Blount high and Knighton got him low; gain of one. Later, Knighton rode Wendell, shoved him aside, and crushed Blount; no gain. Another effortless shedding of Wendell in the third quarter on a Shane Vereen counter; loss of one.
His sack of Tom Brady on 4th-and-3 late in the third quarter, with Denver up 20-3, was the clincher for Denver. Lined up over perennial Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins, Knighton took a jab step to Mankins’ right, then slapped his hands away and had an easy path to Brady. "After that, it was all about finishing," he said.
One other point about Knighton—how he got out of Jacksonville. He’s the kind of player, and leader (at least he has been in Denver), that Gus Bradley would have loved as a centerpiece in the Jags’ defense. His departure stems from a brawl outside a club in Jacksonville—Knighton said he tried to be a peacemaker in a fight involving a good friend—and being struck in the left eye by shards from a broken vodka bottle. After some delicate surgery, the eye was saved. "It was a crazy situation. I wasn’t even involved in the altercation," said Knighton. "One of my friends was. While I was trying to break it up, he slipped on the ground, and I’m trying to pick him up. A bottle busted right next to me, and pieces of the glass bottle got into my eye. It happened so quick."
But the inactivity after the surgery helped wreck his offseason, and he could never win his job back full-time. He wanted to leave the Jags, and he said "one minute after midnight" into free agency last offseason, former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, now Denver’s defensive coordinator, called and began wooing him to Denver. It took a two-year, $4.5 million deal to get him, including just $1.5 million this year. After Knighton’s championship game performance, that looks like John Elway’s ticket to the Executive of the Year finals.
Unger, the Seattle center, has had a so-so year run-blocking, and Pro Football Focus graded him poorly for his run play in both playoff games. The way Knighton is playing, you may see Seattle helping out on Knighton with extra chip-blocks or double-teams from guards. It’s a huge matchup in this game.
Sound Bite of the Week
"The cold? We’re talking about the Super Bowl. I’m not worried about the cold, I promise you that. Weren’t we practicing in like minus-3 degree weather here? So I’m definitely not worried about any cold weather. If anything, I’m worrying about them cancelling the game. That’s the only thing I’m worried about (laughing). Other than that, I’m worrying about playing, that’s it. Not the weather."
—Denver safety Mike Adams, a New Jerseyan, on the prospect of Super Bowl 48 being played in the frigid weather (7 degrees at the Meadowlands this morning) of MetLife Stadium.
Player You Need To Watch This Weekend
Percy Harvin, wide receiver/kick returner, Seattle. Harvin, who played just 37 offensive snaps in the Seahawks’ first 18 games this year—missing 15 contests because of a hip injury and one because of a concussion—has practiced the last two days and should be ready for the Super Bowl. After watching the speedy Denver linebackers on tape, a speed player on those wide-receiver sweeps and with the ball in space on short throws will be crucial in this game. Of course, Seattle has no idea how much Harvin will be able to give them. He came back too soon from summer hip surgery on Nov. 17 to play Minnesota, and wasn’t right for eight weeks after that until playing less than a half against New Orleans in the divisional game. Then two big hits put him out of that game, and out of the NFC Championship Game. Can’t wait to see Denver’s matchup plans for him.