Broncos nose tackle Terrance Knighton, known as "Pot Roast," is the key to Denver's run defense. (AP)
By Brady Henderson
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Taking a closer look at another key player in Super Bowl XLVIII, Denver's Terrance Knighton:
• Position: Nose tackle, run-game disrupter
• Height: 6-3
• Weight: 330
• Age: 27
• Experience: Fifth season
The man nicknamed "Pot Roast" was carrying around some excess beef when he signed with Denver in March after spending his first four seasons in Jacksonville.
"He worked very hard to get his weight in order," Broncos coach John Fox said.
Losing that weight – 15-30 pounds, depending on who you ask – was a significant step in Knighton becoming a run-stuffing force in the middle of Denver's defensive line. The Broncos finished the regular season tied with Seattle for seventh against the run, and Knighton's presence was a big reason why.
As for his nickname, its origins trace back to a 2009 game against the Seahawks in Seattle and a dinner menu on the return flight to Jacksonville that included pot roast and shrimp alfredo.
"It was dark on the plane, everybody was sleeping and the stewardess was saying, 'pot roast, pot roast' and I raised my hand as if that was my name," Knighton said. "The guy behind me was like, 'I'm going to start calling you Pot Roast now.' I'm like, 'Yeah, whatever,' and it stuck with me."
Sure beats the alternative.
"I'm just glad I ordered that instead of shrimp alfredo," he said.
Knighton is the type of interior defensive lineman who takes up space, occupies blockers and clogs running lanes, which means he can play lights out without filling up the stat sheet.
He can do that as well, though. Just look at the AFC Championship Game when he had four tackles – including one for a loss – to help Denver shut down LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots' running back had rushed for 166 yards in the divisional round, and when he gained 6 yards on five carries in the AFC title game, it was only the second time in postseason history that a player has been held to single digits a week after going for at least 150.
Knighton added a sack in that game just for good measure, beating Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins with a nifty swim move that showed he has agility to go along with all that power.
"He's a monster. He's just a monster," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's a very committed guy – when he's going his direction, you can't stop him and. ... Very, very strong guy that has good quickness and has good sense for the game. He's not always where we expect him to be. He can play a gap and then come back in the back door and still make his plays because he has enough quickness to do that with this wonderful strength that he has."
The running game is the focus of Seattle's offense even in ideal conditions. That figures to be the case for the Seahawks even more so if the weather on Super Bowl Sunday is especially inconducive to throwing. That makes controlling Knighton a priority for center Max Unger and the rest of Seattle's offensive line.
"He's a very, very formidable force for us, and he's the problem that starts right in the middle of their defense," Carroll said. "For us, it all begins there. The matchup between he and Max is very crucial in this game."