Some players packed up their lockers quietly, too sad to talk. Others conversed and carried on as a way to mask the sadness.

Rahim Moore, normally a chatty sort, did not seem dejected as he walked through the locker room, but determined. Focused. It was Sunday, Jan. 13, the day after the Broncos were stunned by the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC playoff game. As is custom, the players had returned to the Broncos' Dove Valley headquarters to clean out their lockers the day after the stunning loss. All were disappointed their offseason vacations were starting so soon.

Moore, the Broncos' starting free safety, was about to take the "off" out of his offseason.
"I'm on a mission," Moore said last week. "I want to be a great player. I'm not in the league for the glamour and glitz. I love this game. I'm not good at anything else. I stick to the script."

The night after the Broncos lost to the Ravens 38-35 in two overtimes, a defeat Moore took full blame for as he addressed the media that mobbed his postgame locker, he took a red-eye flight to Florida. He arrived at 6 a.m. Monday, and that afternoon started working out in Del Ray Beach, Fla., with his athletic trainer, Tony Villani.

Other players take three weeks off once their grueling NFL season ends. The rest is prescribed, even mandated, by most of the leading sports performance coaches.

Two days after he misjudged Joe Flacco's deep pass that became a late, game-tying touchdown pass, Moore started high-stepping ladder drills. He worked with tennis balls to enhance his hand-eye coordination.

"Let's say that play never happened. There would still be things I'd want to change, I'd want to improve on," Moore said. "In this game, you have to thrive on putting good stuff on film. When you put bad stuff on film, you want to change it.

"This game has saved my life. It's kept me out of trouble. It's kept me out of jail. It's kept me off the streets. So I try to give the game what it deserves."

The play: What went wrong

Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio received criticism for having a three-man pass rush and not putting enough men deep to help Moore on the play. But the coaches can't be blamed for not having practiced against such a play.

"Oh, yeah, all the time," Moore said. "We work on it all the time. But it's different when you're in a game. You can work on some things, but you've got to handle it when a particular situation comes up. On that particular play, I didn't handle my business."

Several Broncos committed errors on that play as they were trying to protect a 35-28 lead with less than a minute remaining and the ball on the Ravens' 30-yard line. Inside pass rusher Robert Ayers made a spin move that allowed Flacco to gain momentum for his heave by taking four, 6-foot-6 worth of steps up into the pocket. Cornerback Tony Carter, who was covering Jacoby Jones, was supposed to either jam the Ravens receiver at the line or continue to cover him downfield, and did neither. Middle safety Jim Leonhard bit on an underneath route.

Moore was left alone to cover the deep left third of the field. The unusual lengthy time Flacco had to throw, coupled with the extreme height he put on the ball, seemed to throw Moore off rhythm.

"The way he threw it, it looked short," Moore said. "The altitude and everything, it just traveled a little farther. When I realized it, I didn't trust my instinct the way I normally do."

Moore stumbled as the ball sailed over his head and into the arms of Jones, who was on the 20. With no one else around, Jones ran into the end zone. Stunningly, the game was tied 35-35 with 31 seconds remaining.

Peyton Manning threw an interception late in the first overtime, and the Ravens won on a field goal early in the second overtime.

There were so many goats on the decisive play that allowed the Ravens to tie the game. So many players and coaches to blame for defeat. Yet, Moore put it on himself.

"I was trying to make a play, and I got a little too excited and there was a little panic," Moore said. "That's why you learn in this game. When situations come, you've got to handle them.

"The good thing about it is I've moved forward. There have been other plays during my time playing football; there were other plays last year that I'd take back."

Moore's teammates rallied around him. Mike Adams, his fellow starting safety who had just finished his ninth season, told Moore not to forget the tremendous improvement he made from his rookie season of 2011.

Champ Bailey called.

"I don't think it affected him as much as people think," said Bailey, the Broncos' 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who also had a tough playoff game. "Because he got so much better last year. I can't wait to see him improve this year. People want to talk about one play — even with myself, you can't define somebody off one play."

Moore reached out to Manning.

"He told me to get better and learn from it," Moore said. "My teammates did a great job of embracing me and showing me some faith. It was a good thing."

The burdens of growing up

Moore wasn't overly dramatic when he said football saved his life. There is no exaggerating the challenges of growing up in South Central Los Angeles.

"There was tons and tons of gang violence," Moore said. "A lot of things I've seen and witnessed and been around. My mom gave her life to Christ and changed her life around. Until then, my grandmother was on drugs back in the day. My mom was. My dad was. Growing up, that's what I'd seen. When Mom gave herself to Christ, that's when it changed things around. It changed us kids."

Moore had a coach, Doug Brown, who would often pay for Moore's football participation fees and equipment. If Moore slacked with the books, Mom called on Coach Brown.

Moore remembers doing bear crawls in the baseball dirt for Coach Brown. Yet, Moore thrived on discipline. Always has. To this day, he doesn't drink or smoke.

"My mind-set is that whenever I go on the field, I want Coach Fox to feel like he never has to worry about me," Moore said. "They know I work hard. They know I come in here and watch film even before we have our team meetings. They know I'm going to handle my business off the field. I want to prove myself to them that the guy they brought in is the guy they thought they were getting. And better. Every day is an interview. I'm doing this interview with you, but they don't have to be spoken words. When I come into this facility, they're watching."