Denver Broncos defensive back Rahim Moore (26) gets beat by Baltimore Ravens… (Jack Dempsey / Associated…)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — To hear his head coach tell it, no one on the Denver Broncos made a bigger one-season leap than safety Rahim Moore did last year.
But the leap most people remember is Moore's shocking season-ender — his badly mistimed jump (and fall) in the postseason loss to Baltimore that allowed Jacoby Jones to score a 70-yard, score-tying touchdown with 31 seconds left.
"I felt horrible," said Rick Neuheisel, who had Moore in his secondary when he was UCLA's head coach. "What makes Rahim a second-round pick is his ability to be in backpedal then turn and run and get to the ball. He can cover that kind of ground in the amount of time the ball gets there. His speed to get to that junction is unique, and that's what makes him the player he is.
"On that ball, he was still backpedaling, backpedaling, backpedaling. Rahim looked to me like he was staring at [quarterback Joe] Flacco and not paying attention to the deep threat."
The Ravens would go on to win the divisional playoff game in double overtime, eventually reach the Super Bowl, and ultimately hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Moore would go down as the goat, which meant the former UCLA standout was delighted to begin a new career chapter Monday with the start of Denver's organized team activities.
"The thing is, it's like life in general — you have to move on," he said after a morning practice. "You're going to have some good days, some bad days."
Moore said he didn't get a wink of sleep the Saturday night of his coverage breakdown against the Ravens, and he reported to Broncos headquarters with the rest of the team for exit meetings the next morning. That night, he took a red-eye flight to Florida and by Monday afternoon was working out with his trainer in Delray Beach.
"I felt good, I was healthy," he said. "My mind probably wasn't healthy. But I'm fine now, I'm good."
Words of support, he said, have come from all corners of the NFL map, from teammates, from coaches, from fellow defensive backs around the league — among them Seattle's Earl Thomas, Kansas City's Eric Berry and Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark — as well as fans on the street.
"The only people that talk about it is [the media]," Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. "Nobody really pays attention to that. It's in the past. There's nothing you can really do about that. Just move on."
Moore said he has heard his share of negative comments from fans too, and he said he doesn't have an issue with that.
"The fans, that's what they're supposed to do," he said. "That's why they're there for us. They pay all their money, their hard-working money, and they want to see greatness. So I don't fault them at all. But this year, we're going to do all we can to put some smiles on their faces."
The Broncos will have the opportunity to do that early, as they play host to the Ravens in the Kickoff Opener on Thursday, Sept. 5. Moore figures to be the starting safety, and his college coach said he "absolutely" has the mental makeup to overcome his mental breakdown.
"The difference is, NFL fans have long memories, Neuheisel said. "So he is going to hear it and hear it. He can put it out of his head, but he's going to have to make a big play — which he certainly will — for the fans to put that to bed."
By way of example, Neuheisel invoked the memory of the infamous drop by Dallas Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith in a Super Bowl XIII loss to Pittsburgh: Smith is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Jackie Smith made a lot of catches in his career, but the one he's remembered for is the one he didn't make."
Moore has high expectations of himself and of the Broncos, who won their final 11 games of the regular season in 2012. Peyton Manning is coming off a most-valuable-player-caliber season, and the Broncos have added All-Pro receiver Wes Welker to their arsenal.
Denver's defense, ranked second in yards allowed last season, figures to be among the NFL elite, despite losing outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (but adding former San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips). As for Moore, additional competition could be on the way. The Broncos are trying to work out a deal with veteran safety Charles Woodson, among the NFL's best defensive backs of the last decade. He visited Denver last week.
"I was excited [about the visit]," said Moore, a second-round pick in 2011. "I hope we get him because I'm all about competition. I never run from it, ever. And I'll be happy to say I played with two Hall of Famers in my career — actually, three — all in my same DB room," referring to Bailey, safety Brian Dawkins and Woodson.
"Charles Woodson, I grew up watching. So, if they bring him in, I'm going to be excited. I'm going to learn everything that he does, and I'm going to compete as if he's been here since I've been here."
Broncos Coach John Fox said Moore made "great progress" in his first two seasons, and he's among the most improved players on the roster. He said that although the misplayed deep pass to Jones was "no doubt a devastating play," Moore is capable of putting it in the past.
"He has to just forget that," Fox said, "get that bad taste out, make the same improvement from Year 2 to 3 as he did from 1 to 2 and he'll be just fine."