Peyton Manning has an impressive resume. He broke another NFL record in Week 5 - the most career passing yards in NFL history, regular season and postseason combined, with over 77,700 (nice #7 reference there, Peyton). But he also might be the first Broncos player in ~10 years of Game Balls to give a performance that generated both laud and calls for his demotion.
In case you're new to Game Balls, the rules are simple - everyone on the MHR Staff takes turns dolling out our game ball. We can't repeat (we can't all give Chris Harris Jr. a Game Ball, for example, even though he might deserve it). It's our way to share the praise and highlight some other positive-impact players for the game, aside from the obvious.
Without further ado, your Week 5 Game Balls.
QB Peyton Manning
I may not get a ton of opportunities to say this, but I'd like to give Peyton Manning my game ball. Not one, but two dropped touchdowns and two interceptions, one off of blatant pass interference and another of not so blatant pass interference that happened just as the ball went to the air. These aren't excuses, but watch the tape: on the first Charles Woodson interception Owen Daniels is straight-up picked to make room for Woodson's interception. Manning finished with a 22/35/266/0 line with two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Denver's running game finished with a whopping 43 yards (Ronnie Hillman again finished averaging an entire yard more per carry than C.J. Anderson, but that's a different post). But the difference in Manning being 25 of 35 with three touchdowns and one interception is a Demaryius Thomas catch, Hillman grabbing the ball instead of acting for pass interference, and Daniels not getting blocked along his route to the endzone. No one is talking about Brock Osweiler if that happens.
Manning is the only reason that Denver is in field position to get those field goals against Oakland. So credit Brandon McManus (whom many of you wanted cut by the way - keep that in mind when assessing your armchair general manager skills) with the successful field goal tries, but someone got him there and it certainly wasn't the offensive line or the running backs. Manning is doing this by himself on offense, so for you detractors, as Omar from HBO's The Wire put it, "You come at the King, you best not miss." - Ian Henson
LB Von Miller
Von Miller is a game-changing defender. In today's game stole the football from Derek Carr like a high school bully snatching away the lunch of a 2nd grader. His game-changing play helped keep our team in a tough away game and steal the confidence of the Raiders. - Sadaraine
CB Chris Harris Jr.
My game ball goes to Chris Harris Jr. With the Broncos clinging to a tenuous two-point lead and the Faiders driving, he made the biggest play of the game picking off Derek Carr's ill-advised throw and returning it for the only Bronco's TD. In addition, he had four tackles (three solo) and two pass break-ups.
For the most part CHJ and Aquib Talib kept the top to receivers for the Jokeland in check, giving up 8 catches for 101 yards on 13 targets. All five of those failed targets were to Crabtree, and it looked to me like Harris had been covering Crabtree for all of them. There a few holes shown in the No Fly Zone yesterday, but our multi-million dollar interceptor, CHJ, came through when we needed him most - Joseph Mahoney
OT Michael Schofield
My game ball goes to Michael Schofield, with honorable mentions to Louis Vasquez and Evan Mathis, who played very well against the Raiders. But Schofield gets my game ball for this - he was called for a hold on this play, which was outrageous. I don't call this a hold - I call this a pancake.
If you're going to flag Schofield for that, flag him for human indecency for the way he abused Khalil Mack on this play. Flag him for cruel and unusual punishment or brutal, lethal efficiency. Flag him because you're a waffle guy and you don't really like pancakes. But don't flag him for holding. - Monty
Broncos defense rescues offense from Black Hole
But there is a lot of blame to go around among players on offense - and thankfully there is a ton of credit to be shared by players on defense.
K Brandon McManus
My Game Ball goes to Brandon McMoney! This kicker completely retooled his kicking motion and had one hell of an offseason. This is a testament to not only his determination to get better, but the team's development of him. They saw something last year in him, and it is paying ridiculous dividends right now. He once again was money in his kicks, booting 50 yarders as if they were the old 12 yard extra points. If there is a better kicker in the NFL, then it's a shorter list than hall of fame QBs who no longer have "it" anymore. Give me McMoney over everyone else in the NFL. He scored 10 of the 16 points in our victory over the Raiders. His impact on this team is almost on the same level as our defense. When was the last time you could say that about a kicker? Brandon McManus aka McMoney, you get my game ball. - Big Pete
WR Emmanuel Sanders
Once again, Emmanuel Sanders was money everywhere on the field against the Raiders. Demaryius Thomas is also quietly having a good season, but He-Manuel has been making far more impact plays in key third downs, as well as, down the field.
This 40-yard bomb ended up one of the most important offensive plays of the game. - Tim Lynch
DC Wade Phillips
It’s about time to give Wade Phillips the credit he is due. Every week, a huge defensive play by a different defensive stud is saving the win. But this is not by accident; it is by design. And it has everything to do with coaching in my opinion.
We're the first @NFL team in 17 years with at least 22 sacks & 14 takeaways through the first five games of a season. pic.twitter.com/FNldeIRrJ1— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 12, 2015
The pieces have been there before – athletic, Pro Bowl players with big skills. What has been missing was both a scheme that highlighted aggressive play and a practice mentality that forced it. T.J. Ward says the coaches are creating a great game plan; Derek Wolfe mentions coaching first when answering how the defense makes the big play every week; Chris Harris Jr. notes this is what they practice to do. Players bought in a long time ago to their new defensive coordinator, and now the NFL is watching a reckoning of sorts from the Super Bowl two years ago. The best part is, there’s no secret formula other than the right combination: smart coach + great players = brilliant defensive play.
Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez, who graded in the top-five of Broncos in Week 5, according to PFF. - Monty
Bennie Fowler deserves at least an honorable mention if not an outright game ball as one of the few highlights on the offensive side of the ball. Though he only had two catches in the game, he caught everything thrown to him, which is more than a certain #1 WR can say today. And one of those passes included a massive grab in the air with yards-after-catch to boot that resulted in a 41-yard play. - Laurie
Malik Jackson continues to quietly have an amazing year, which feels like the exact same thing we said in both 2013 and 2014. - Monty