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Broncos 24, Lions 12: Game balls for Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, and that Orange Crush defense

When the Denver Broncos win, the MHR Staff gives out game balls. And after the 24-12 victory over the Detroit Lions on the road and in prime time on Sunday Night Football, game balls we will give.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

We have a glorious problem here at Mile High Report following games in the 2015 season.

Too many deserving players, not enough Game Balls.

We're serious. Every week, when debating who should get a Game Ball (and we stick with a rule of one Game Ball per player/coach/unit - no repeats), we feel bad about the players we're leaving out. Take this week. That pass rush was insane Sunday Night - Matthew Stafford will be having nightmares of DeMarcus Ware and Shaq Barrett and Malik Jackson for days - but none of Denver's pass rushers made the final cut. Bradley Roby had an incredible first half interception, but he didn't get a game ball either.

You know what that tells us? The Denver Broncos are winning as a team. We can highlight certain players with game balls, but at the end of the day, it doesn't do the entire team justice. This team is exciting as hell to watch, and it's still finding its groove.

On to the game balls!

WR Bennie Fowler

Bennie Fowler is a Michigan native who attended Michigan State and Detroit Country Day high school. So it was a big night for Fowler, who signed with the Broncos as a college free agent in 2014, spent last year on the practice squad, and suited up in his home state for Sunday Night Football. But that wasn't big enough - Fowler went and decided to move the chains for the Broncos, apparently moving ahead of the likes of Cody Latimer and Andre Caldwell to haul in his first career NFL catch, then his second, then his third, and then his fourth. Most impressive, Fowler caught all four passes that were sent his way.

Fowler ended with 50 yards, but his entrance into the NFL was storybook enough to put a big smile on my face and earn him my Game Ball. - Monty

QB Peyton Manning

After an impressive performance on the road against the Detroit Lions, one could surmise that quarterback Peyton Manning may have started taking the reports of him being washed up personally. The savvy veteran looked poised in the pocket and came up big when it mattered the most and helped propel the Broncos to a 24-12 victory. Outside of the batted interception that ended up in the hands of Lions safety Glover Quin, Manning was on target the entire game and connected with nine different receivers, amassing 31 completions on 42 attempts for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Former Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan once said, "Big time players make big time plays in big time games." and Manning certainly did that this evening. - Christopher Hart

WR Demaryius Thomas

I realized it at the end of the first half of the Sunday night game. The difference between the Broncos offense (and Peyton Manning) looking good is how often Manning goes to Demaryius Thomas and how Thomas responds to those targets. With a minute left in the first half, the Peyton targeted Demaryius on three of five plays and the final of those three was an under thrown pass that allowed Demaryius to demonstrate why he is one of the best in the NFL at what he does. Thomas plucked the ball out of the air and took the 45-yard pass into the end zone. The Lions would not sniff the lead again for the rest of the game. - Ian Henson

WR Emmanuel Sanders

Demaryius Thomas had a better stat line with 9 catches for 92 yards and an incredible touchdown to end the first half, but it just felt like DT left a lot of plays out there on the field. So much so that, I'm giving my game ball to Emmanuel Sanders who really took advantage of the limited touches he got in this game. He finished with 6 catches for 87 yards, but again was money on a few third downs, along with this incredible He-Manuel play to seal the deal for the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter. - Tim Lynch

CB Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib was given the daunting task of guarding Calvin "Megatron" Johnson all night. Talib held Megatron to a respectable 8 receptions for 77 yards and no touchdowns. Most teams make sure to double cover Johnson because of his tight end-like size. Wade Phillips trusted Talib to get the job done by himself, so that our other weapons in Harris and Roby could focus on Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. The Lions' offense is no joke, and it's a feat the Talib held his own against one of the best receivers in the league tonight; Talib even almost caught a couple of Matthew Stafford passes himself. His aggressive play got him my game ball, despite a couple of tacky PI calls by the refs, who seemed to have put money on the Lions to win this game. - Kelly Fleming

HC Gary Kubiak

Gary Kubiak gets my game ball for being a coach who is showing that he clearly is here to make sound decisions for the team in order to give us the best possible opportunity to win games. His offensive scheme hasn't been working well according to what it has traditionally looked like. He cares not. Switch it up and run it out of the pistol. Our lead back isn't performing very well. He rotates the other guys in and lets them have an opportunity to do better. It is 4th and 1 in a tight game against a solid defense. Go deep baby! Adjustments aren't a foreign concept any longer. Good win, Kubes! - Sadaraine

ILB Brandon Marshall

My game ball goes to Brandon Marshall. In a game where the our defense played exceptionally well as a whole, Marshall may not have shined like players who made great individual plays (Roby's pick, Bruton's pick, Barrett's stripsack, Talib's blocked PAT), but what he did was make seemingly every other play. Marshall is credited with 12 tackles (10 solo), 1 TFL and 1 QB hit. The Lions ran 68 offensive plays; Marshall made the tackle on 17% of them. In a game where our defense allowed one good drive the whole game (80 yd TD drive), Marshall was the man flying all over the field making tackles and he is just going to get better folks. - Joe Mahoney

FS David Bruton Jr.

ball • hawk [noun] – a footballer who aggressively goes after a pass intended for another team’s receiver and takes it away like he stole it. See also: Denver Broncos secondary. Examples – David Bruton Jr., Bradley Roby, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Darian Stewart.

David Bruton, Jr. – the latest in the Broncos secondary to put on a clinic for ball-hawking defenders – gets my game ball not so much for overall performance, which was up-and-down on the night, but for both the timing and sheer athleticism of his interception late in the fourth quarter. Once again, the Denver defense had its back against the wall as Matthew Stafford and the Lions were threatening an all-too-easy go-ahead touchdown, leaving Peyton Manning and the offense to pull off another miracle to win on the road.

But instead it was Bruton with the miraculous touch, jumping in front of Megatron, first tipping the ball, then catching it and scampering for a few yards just to make sure. Just another heads-up play at a key moment – something that is becoming routine for this defense. Bradley Roby also gets an honorable mention for his INT early in the game, a nice follow-up to his heads-up fumble recovery last week for the game-winning touchdown. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann