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Broncos-Panthers Super Bowl game balls: Von Miller, Wade Phillips - even Peyton Manning

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When the Broncos win, the staff gives out game balls. And this was definitely a win (er, make that a Super Bowl championship) for the ages!

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After the New England game, our top game balls went to the defense, and we said, "now they just need to do it one more time."

Well, they did. And it led to a Lombardi in a huge way. The entire defense was so dominant, there were not enough staff members to pick all of them for game balls, but we know you'll help us out with the ones we missed.

Because the good news when you win a Super Bowl? Everyone deserves a game ball.

Von Miller

Only one name gets the game ball after Super Bowl 50: Von Miller. He put forth his second consecutive historic performance in the playoffs, this time in Santa Clara, Calif., that led the Broncos to their third Lombardi Trophy. In the process, he cemented himself as the best pass rusher and defender in the NFL. Tom Brady still hasn't had his surgery to remove Miller, and he forced Superman to choke on kryptonite. What's awesome to think about is Miller is just getting started. - Ian St. Clair


DeMarcus Ware

No. 94 was every bit as dominant as Von Miller when it came to getting Cam Newton's face, but it was the two game-changing turnovers that vaulted Miller to the Super Bowl MVP. Still, with five tackles and two sacks in the game, Ware was a force to be reckoned with against the Carolina Panthers. Just ask Michael Oher, who was basically Ware's scout team blindside tackle in this one. - Tim Lynch


Wade Phillips

It was a team win, but there is one HUGE reason that our team won this Super Bowl. We have the best defensive coordinator in the NFL. I have nothing but love for the job Wade does as a defensive coach. He gets his team ready. He calls an aggressive game. All we have to do is keep the cupboard stocked, and he will deliver a top 10 defense year in and year out. Thank you so much Wade for letting our players play. Thank you for believing in them and leading them to domination of the 2015 NFL. All year long our defense talked about playing for each other...about going to war with your brothers. I like that analogy, but just make sure you don't leave out some cred for the general. - Sadaraine

Mile High at Levi

I want to give a shoutout to a cluster of Broncos fans on the Broncos' end zone who were delightfully loud the whole game. Cheering, chanting, getting everyone who could see them excited to yell right along with them. It was like a little bit of Mile High was cut and pasted into Levi Stadium. - Amy Richau

mile high at levi

Bradley Roby

If Cam Newton is someone the NFL has not seen before, Bradley Roby did his best to continue that self-proclamation that Newton said early in Super Bowl week with such tenacity. Roby quietly became the second best cornerback (and possibly the best) on the Broncos during this postseason. Sporting the fang mouthpiece that Ronnie Hillman would have made popular had he remained relevant, Roby led the team in pass defenses with three, but drew Carolina's Ted Ginn often and saved a huge drive on 3rd-and-long, which forced a field goal and kept Denver's lead to six. - Ian Henson

Malik Jackson

Between recovering a fumble for a touchdown and generally wreaking havoc all game long, Malik Jackson confirmed what we've known about him for the past two to three years: he's one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL. Hopefully the Broncos can keep him.  - Monty

Special Teams

While we have dubbed the 2015 Broncos' defense (aka the 'Orange Rush') the MVPs of the game, the outcome may have been completely different without our special teams play.

It started with a perfect Brandon McManus field goal on the first drive of the game, proving his nerves were not going to be a problem in the biggest game of his career. He went on to kick two more, making him perfect in the playoffs. His kickoffs were spectacular, 4 of his 6 went for touch backs. This kid's future is bright, and I predict the Broncos have their 3rd world-record holder.

Britton Colquitt, who has been a target for criticism based on his fat paycheck, really earned his money during this game. He punted 8 times, averaging 46 yards, and booting a 54 yarder when it really mattered most. The Panthers never were set up with good field position after a punt, and Colquitt silently put up the fourth best Super Bowl performance by a punter in history.

Speaking of punts, Jordan Norwood nearly took one to the house, setting the Broncos up in field goal range just before halftime. He seemed to have confused the Panthers' special teams defenders, who thought he called for a fair catch. Norwood then ran a 61 yard punt return - the longest in Super Bowl history.

Finally, I want to mention the Broncos' special teams players who were in on Graham Gano's missed field goal. Somehow, the line got into his head and he missed his first shot from 39 yards, solidifying the Broncos dominating presence on field before halftime. - Kelly Fleming

C.J. Anderson

The surprise starter and no-surprise big-time offensive contributor scored Denver's only touchdown on offense. But his contributions were even greater considering the Panthers' defense was the best Denver had faced, and the help he received from his O-line wasn't Super Bowl-caliber.

Bravo, Mr. Anderson. - Monty


Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning was not the best player on the field Sunday but he was one of the most important. While I want to pick T.J. Ward or Darian Stewart, Manning deserves one first. Especially since this is likely his last game - and because he handled the season's "unique" wrenches with continued class and professionalism - he deserves a game ball for being just what the Broncos needed - a team leader.

Despite Manning's statistically not-too-great second quarter (2-for-7 completions and an interception), No. 18 had a 119 passer rating after the first quarter and a 92.2 passer rating if you exclude the second. Although it's the whole game that counts, Manning and the offense once again proved they could be as good as they needed to be, when they needed to be, to secure the win. And Manning was always the first to give all the credit to the defense and say he was just happy to be able to help the team.

After watching firsthand how Manning handled the press all week - amid a hundred questions about whether he could win this last one, whether he'd retire, whether he minded the defense leading the Broncos - it's even more clear to me what an important leader he is on that team. (And if you weren't sure before, Cam's press conference was a good example of what happens when you don't have mature leadership mentoring along the way).

In both of Von Miller's MVP pressers, he mentioned the role Manning has played in leading the team - both as the quarterback and as an example "to the guys." And when Miller was asked if Cam was still his favorite quarterback, Miller said, "Number 18 is my man." When your Super Bowl MVP recognizes that his  quarterback played a big role in helping the defense by the decisions he made, the clock management he displayed and the calm he had on the field despite drops, INTs, sacks... then you know there's an influence that must be celebrated.

Plus, at the end of the game when a score was crucial to seal the deal, Manning got C.J. in the end zone and then got a strike to Bennie Fowler for the two-point conversion.

So like Bennie, I'm calling him "P.Money" from now on. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

More game balls:

Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward were both back in the lineup and making huge plays as these starting safeties shut down virtually any downfield threat. Ward came up with his first interception of the year that was saved by Danny Trevathan when it was knocked out of Ward's hands, while Stewart provided one of the seven sacks to Cam and also turned in a forced fumble, which Trevathan also recovered. Ward's fumble recovery inside the five with just minutes to go in the game set up the Broncos only offensive touchdown plus two-point conversion that put the Broncos up 14 points and essentially out of reach.

Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson were the beasts we expected, keeping the Panthers run game to 118 yards, including only 45 from Newton. Wolfe even broke through to help with a sack and give us one of our favorite celebrations - the howl.

Now let's watch it again and enjoy all those game balls a few more times:

Top NFL Films Shots: Super Bowl 50