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Broncos want to win this for Manning, Ware

When the AFC Championship kicks off today, the Broncos will be playing for everybody - themselves, their families, the fans, even the franchise and its beloved owner - but mostly for their fellow teammates. And two in particular.

The last time the Broncos hosted the Patriots on a snowy Nov. 29 prime time game, veteran all-pros Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware were eating hot dogs in the equipment room and watching the game on TV.

Both were rehabbing injuries and were not active for the biggest matchup of the season to date. After starting out on the sidelines, both retreated inside to avoid aggravating their injuries in the sub 30-degree temps with blowing snow.

It wasn't the way either wanted to be spending their time for that game.

"It's so weird to see when a quarterback gets a call and see how he feels about the play," Ware recalled, noting the were watching on mute and listening to the plays via their headsets. "All of the sudden, I get a defensive play on the headset, he looks at me and I'm like, ‘Ah, we should have called this play.' He's like, ‘We should have called this play.'"

Ware remembered an instance where a Broncos' defender missed a tackle and Manning told him the defense should run a certain play.

"He said, ‘DeMarcus, go out there and tell them that we need to run this play.' I'm running all the way back out there on the sideline and telling them about some pass rush play, and it actually worked," Ware said, noting they got a sack.

Then the 11-year pass rusher told Manning to give Brock Osweiler some advice for a play.

"[Peyton] puts his stuff on and goes out there and says that," Ware said. "It was just funny to see that. It was fun at that time."

You play for your teammates. When you have two veterans like that who have done it at a high level for so many years and don't have the ultimate goal every year to show for it, that's who you play for.  -C.J. Anderson

Fun to have a teammate while on the sidelines, but both are ecstatic things are different this weekend.

"[DeMarcus] and I were smiling before the team meeting that it would be nice to be out onto the actual playing field this time around as opposed to in an equipment room," Manning said Wednesday. "The hot dogs aren't bad in there, I'll say that, but I'd much prefer to be on the playing field."

And since both players are nearing the ends of their illustrious careers in the NFL, it has not been lost on the team that this AFC Championship has a little more significance for them.

It's not that the players don't want to win for themselves and the whole team, but if earning a 'W' this weekend as much for Ware and Manning as for themselves.

"I was talking to DeMarcus earlier. He got his second playoff win last week. We want to keep that going for him," Von Miller said of his counterpart on the outside. "It's special for him and it's special for me, too. He was one of my idols growing up, a guy who I have the utmost respect for. I want it just as bad as he wants it. It's always easier to do something for somebody else, and we definitely want to get it done for DeMarcus."

C.J. Anderson considers the opportunity to win it for these future Hall-of-Famers a great honor.

"Getting [Peyton] another Super Bowl ring is huge, but [we] can't take care of that unless we get him his fourth AFC Championship win and get DeMarcus his first," Anderson said. "At the end of the day, that's who you play for. You play for your teammates. When you have two veterans like that who have done it at a high level for so many years and don't have the ultimate goal every year to show for it, that's who you play for."

After 18 years in the league, No. 18 certainly has an appreciation for how hard it is to be in the conference championship, and he is not taking that for granted.

"Kubiak was referencing some players today on our team that have been playing for a long time, even some coaches, and this is the first time being in a conference championship game, which tells you how hard it is just to get to this game," Manning noted. "You don't take it for granted by any means, and you don't get here unless everybody has worked hard. It's definitely an opportunity that you appreciate."

For the younger players who joined the Broncos since 2012, they've gotten used to being in the playoffs. Ronnie Hillman pointed out that having teammates like Manning and especially Ware who has never been in a conference championship, it helps provide perspective on what a rare opportunity it is - and one not to be squandered.

Having guys like Ware, who have been at the top of their game every year but never had the opportunity for the biggest stage, increases the  team's urgency to take advantage of playing in this game.

"You want to win for guys like that," Hillman said.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips coached Ware in Dallas and he remembers well all the good and not-so-good teams Ware has been on.

"DeMarcus, he's such a great player and has had such a great career that it just shows you that you can't always be in the right spot at the right time, even though you're a great player," Phillips said. "Your teams don't always end up playing for championships. ...It's a great opportunity for him to be able to play in these kinds of games because he deserves that. He's such a great player."

I've been playing for Peyton ever since the day I got here. He's one of those guys that I want him to win another Super Bowl.  -Emmanuel Sanders

Danny Trevathan, who played in the Super Bowl in his second season in the NFL, really wants his defensive captain to get a shot at the big one.

"We have to get him there. DeMarcus has been working his tail off for too long. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book," Trevathan said. "It's our job to get him there. He's doing his best to get there."

Emmanuel Sanders said he has been trying to help win for Peyton the moment he arrived in Dove Valley.

"I've been playing for Peyton ever since the day that I got here. I've been adamant on speaking about that. He's one of those guys that I want him to win another Super Bowl," Sanders said. "Kubiak had a saying today on the board that if you play for the person next to you more than you play for yourself, the outcome is greater. ...We're playing for each other."

Having the team rally on their behalf is an honor for both Ware and Manning, but the two veterans prefer being part of the effort to play for the guy next to them.

For Ware, that "guy next to him" is Manning.

"That next teammate, for me, is Peyton. I think that's a big, monumental thing for me," Ware said about playing with a fellow future Hall-of-Famer. "I'm really excited to be playing this week and be part of this experience."