The way running back Montee Ball sees his rookie season in the NFL is that he's playing his best football just when the Broncos need him to.

The fact that he's had strong performances in relief of Knowshon Moreno in playoff victories over San Diego and New England allows him to think he's meeting expectations for a second-round draft pick.

"I think the Broncos drafted me with this time of the year in mind," Ball said. "It's the playoffs and I came into the picture at the right time."

The picture may not have been that clear early in the season. In the second game, Ball fumbled into the New York Giants' end zone, ending a scoring opportunity for the Broncos. That game was played in East Rutherford, N.J., at MetLife Stadium, where the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will meet in Super Bowl XLVIII next Sunday.

The turnover caused Denver coach John Fox to go a little slower with Ball's playing time. In a three-game stretch against Dallas, Jacksonville and Indianapolis, he carried the ball a total of only four times.

"We didn't have any doubts about him," Fox said Friday after practice. "We drafted him pretty high. I think he has grown as a player and done a tremendous job."

But Ball, a former Wisconsin star, didn't look favorably on the lull after his fumble.

"I don't think the coaches lost confidence in me, but I lost a lot of confidence in myself," Ball said. "I'm a rookie and I didn't want to let my team down."

Moreno thinks his teammate has done just fine this season.

"He's helping to keep everyone healthy," Moreno said. "It takes more than one running back. He has stepped up to the plate and has been a great part of this offense."

Ball helped close out the Broncos' 26-16 victory over New England in the AFC championship game last weekend by converting a fourth-down play with a 5-yard run, enabling them to run out the clock. Now he's off to the Super Bowl as a rookie, a destination many players never get to see.

The NFL can be a small world. Ball and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson were Wisconsin teammates for one season. Wilson quit professional baseball to join the Badgers to finish his college football career.

"I got to know him pretty well," Ball said. "I wasn't surprised when he came back to football. I really think his heart is in football."

Ball is taking a veteran's viewpoint into the Super Bowl.