ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -
Denver coach John Fox makes it pretty clear: running backs have to hold on to the ball to hang on to their jobs. Rookie Ronnie Hillman is just hoping he's not in the Broncos' doghouse as long as Knowshon Moreno was.
"I've got to win Coach Fox's confidence back, my teammates'. I let them down," said Hillman, who didn't see the field again after fumbling Sunday while the Broncos were driving for a score against Kansas City.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers returned it 64 yards before tight end Joel Dreessen dragged him down at the 12 with a heart-skipping assist from Peyton Manning.
Moreno didn't suit up for two months after coughing up the football at Atlanta in Week 2, finally getting another chance — and running with it — in November after Willis McGahee blew out a knee.
To get another chance to serve as Moreno's primary backup, Hillman has some work to do.
Lance Ball and Jacob Hester shared running duties after Hillman's blunder, combining for 121 yards and a TD as the Broncos (13-3) routed the Chiefs 38-3.
Hillman said Wednesday he'd love a shot at redemption in the playoffs.
"I want the ball, but I know my role, too, and if they call my number, they call my number," he said.
He's not exactly exuding confidence that will happen.
"I hope so, but ... if they don't, I'll cheer on the rest of my teammates," Hillman said.
Hillman had a sputtering start to his rookie season after being slowed in camp by a pulled hamstring. But he came on strong down the stretch, carrying 15 times in a pivotal win at Baltimore last month and finishing with 330 yards and a touchdown to go with a 3.9-yard average.
The Broncos still believe Hillman has a bright future in this league, but he realizes it might be training camp before he's allowed the chance to make up what could have been a very costly mistake.
After all, Moreno has rushed for 510 yards and four TDs since becoming the starter six weeks ago, Ball ran for 66 yards Sunday and Hester has given the Broncos a great goal line option and blitz protector in the mold of McGahee, who is on the mend and can return to action if Denver reaches the AFC championship game.