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Broncos 22, Chargers 10: Game balls to Peyton Manning, Connor Barth and more

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When the Denver Broncos win the AFC West, the MHR Staff gives out Game Balls! (Technically that's not always true. In 2011, the Broncos lost in Week 17 then won the AFC West anyway. But hey, let's keep a PMA here, people!)

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, MHR. Broncos 22, Chargers 10. Game balls. Who ya got?

K Connor Barth

Connor Barth gets my game ball for not only kicking 5 field goals against the Chargers, but completely making me at ease whenever the Broncos line up to kick a field goal. (Which trust me, is highly unusual.) Do I wish the Broncos would have gone for it on a few of those drives? Sure. But that's second guessing after a win which is an exercise in frustration. Let's all celebrate the Broncos have a kicker who can kick it dead center in the uprights at 19 yards, 26 yards, 19 yards, 49 yards, and 44 yards all in the same game. This is the second road game Barth has successfully kicked 5 field goals. Barth is the definition of consistent which I think is a marvelous attribute for a player to have in such a high pressure position.

Did anyone else see the live stream of Manning's press conference? He seriously looked like he was about to throw up at the very beginning. 4 IVs?!? Ugh. - Amy Richau

Speaking of Peyton...

QB Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning gets my game ball. After getting off to a shaky start (sack fumble recovered by Clady), Manning managed to post a touchdown, no interceptions, and 233 yards on the day, along with the AFC West Championship title and a record 14th season passing for over 4,000 yards. In case you haven't heard, Manning played yesterday after catching the flu the night before. I had something similar sounding last week and could barely open my eyes long enough to send my boss an email telling him I wouldn't be in that day.

Manning wasn't just battling the flu (which possibly led to a thigh injury just prior to halftime), he has been battling with fierce criticism all week after breaking his touchdown streak against the Bills. I'm sure he wanted nothing more than to silence his critics and prove that an "old guy" is still the best in the league. In my opinion, he did just that. He had accurate long passes to both the Thomases and Sanders, and a couple of short slot passes to Welker, and averaged 11.65 yards per pass.

Not only that, but he threw a freakin' block that actually injured the elbow of Butler to help get C.J. Anderson into the end zone (which was then overturned)! If that's not proof that he doesn't care about his own stats, I don't know what is. His value as a play-caller was evident when he went off the field and off of play-calling duty. A cold Osweiler came off the bench could have just run the clock out, but instead was flagged for intentional grounding and threw 2 incompletions. Manning is still one of the most valuable players to the Broncos, even if he is getting "old" and even when he has the flu. He definitely earned his Gatorade this week (you gotta sweat it to get it), I just hope he drinks it and gets back to 100% before the playoffs! - Kelly Fleming

CB Chris Harris Jr.

Chris Harris Jr. signed his big contract, much to everyone's delight. What I loved about this was that Elway showed not only Harris, but all players on the team that if you are great, you'll get rewarded and won't have to worry about the stress of a) staying healthy to get your offseason contract, and b) the stress of free agency where at least in the last few years meant less money that players maybe expected.

So the real question would be whether or not Chris Harris would live up to that contract, or would he ease up as we've seen players do. He came through with an amazing performance on the road in a game that the Broncos needed to win the division and stay within striking distance of the Patriots for the #1 seed. He held Keenan Allen to 3 catches for 18 yards. With performances like that, Harris will find himself in the Pro Bowl even though he didn't get the name recognition votes (fan votes). The players and coaches will get him there. I don't need PFF or anyone else to tell me how good Harris is. My eyeballs tell me that he's the best. The man already got paid, so the next logical step is to get him some finger jewelry on the house. - Big Pete

CB Aqib Talib

My game ball goes to Aqib Talib. He has been picked on a little bit on the past couple of weeks (not a much as Bradley Roby), but he stepped up in a big way. His interception in the 4th quarter is the kind of veteran play that was used to see Champ Bailey pull against the Chargers. He read the QB and the route and made a better play on the ball than the receiver. In addition to that INT, Talib had 3 pass defenses and led the team in tackles with 8, 7 solo. He played a complete game and, from what I remember, was only beaten once or twice and routes. Our top three tacklers this game were all from the secondary - Talib, T.J. Ward and Chris Harris, Jr. - Joe Mahoney

RB C.J. Anderson

Our top three tacklers this game were all from the secondary - Talib, T.J. Ward and Chris Harris, Jr.

C.J. Anderson is beasting out of his mind right now. This team needs to lean on more people than Peyton to achieve their goals (Super Bowl Champions). While CJ didn't have his best statistical performance, he did enough to keep the Chargers off balance which helped our offensive line protect a clearly hobbled Peyton Manning. When the Broncos lost Ryan Clady, the Chargers would have normally feasted on a patchwork offensive line, but instead, they had to play honest and respect the run because of Anderson. Had the Broncos been one dimensional, Peyton could have been seriously hurt, but because Anderson is a legitimate backfield threat, the Chargers couldn't pin their ears back and go after a limping and sick Manning. Even when the Broncos passed, the Chargers were forced to play honest defense because of CJ. That is how vital he is to our post season success when the teams and weather conditions will only get tougher. Keep rocking CJ. Peyton might be the engine that runs the offense, but you're the oil to keeps the engine running. - Big Pete

Lost-at-sea WiFi

Hi from the middle of the ocean (who knew there'd be wifi!?)

My game ball goes to the wifi carrier that makes sure in the middle of the ocean on a sailboat crazy fans like me could check the score and know the Broncos did just what I expected them to - beat the Chargers, win the AFC West and prove they are a tough team. I had no idea that would mean Peyton Manning playing through illness and injury (if I were giving out a real game ball, he would definitely get the first one!) but I did know it would mean the defense shutting down the Rivers/Gates combo and big plays like the interceptions from Rahim The Dream Moore and Aqib Talib! Thank you, Broncos, for ensuring now I can really enjoy my vacation! - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

Honorable mentions

  • Malik Jackson has been beasting out, and this week he had a pass block at the LOS, three hurries, and two tackles. - Monty
  • Danny Trevathan came back from injury to spell the suddenly-injured Brandon Marshall, totaling 42 snaps in a pinch. Reports just broke that's out for the year, which massively, massively sucks. - Monty
  • Broncos fans for basically making this a home game. This really is Broncos Country! - Kelly

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