Please allow us to interrupt the day's (year's?) round of Lance Ball bashing for a moment.
Ball has been the target of plenty of criticism this season, including in this here space, although the ire has more often been directed at the Broncos' coaching staff for dressing and playing him over former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno.
That anger becomes magnified when Ball carries the ball on third-and-four (like he did against New England in Week 5), or on third-and-one (as happened on Denver's first possession yesterday, prior to Willis McGahee's injury).
The argument has been that Moreno provides more skill with the ball in his hands, while Ball is considered the better blocker and special-teams player (if Moreno is the latter, at all). Not to be overlooked is that Ball spent much of a year's time with the Colts between 2008 and 2009, and therefore he and Peyton Manning have a pre-existing comfort with each other.
During Sunday's 30-23 win over San Diego, Ball was all over the map - recovering Trindon Holliday's fumble, losing his own just a few plays later, and recovering the ball after Nate Irving's blocked punt only a few minutes after that.
And at the end of the third quarter and into the final period, an 11-yard reception by Ball, plus his runs of 14 and 13 yards, helped contribute to two Denver drives that ended in field goals.
But none of these count as Ball's biggest contribution to the Broncos' 30-23 win over the visiting Chargers - one which won't show up on the stat sheets.
As Solomon Wilcots noted during the telecast, and Jeff Legwold just revisited for the DP, the oft-criticized third-string running back made a tremendous play on the third-and-five, third-quarter, 20-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Eric Decker.
The score had the feeling of breaking open the game, but not only did San Diego respond with a touchdown of their own, but the game's result ultimately came down to a single tally.
Either way, it was a huge moment, and indeed, safe to say the play would not have ended with a Denver touchdown were it not for Ball's huge block.
Denver is aligned in one of its typical 2x2 formations, with Ball lined up to Manning's left. Peyton being Peyton, he recognizes that Chargers LB Demorrio Williams is likely to be blitzing from the offensive right, and he demonstrably makes sure Ball is aware of the possibility:
At the snap, Ball is still to Peyton's left, which means that if Williams does indeed rush, the back will have a long way to go in order to block him.
Indeed, Williams is coming free, and Ball has to get across the pocket, and quickly:
Ball does such a great job of steering Williams out of Manning's way that the QB is hardly bothered, if at all.
In fact, Ball's block buys Peyton an extra two or three beats, allowing him enough time to make three reads (including a first lookoff from Decker) before coming back to the wideout for what amounts to a four-yard dumpoff and 16-yard run for paydirt.
Does Knowshon Moreno make this block? Hard to say, although there's a good chance we'll be finding out for sure, what with the killer knee injury that has likely ended Willis McGahee's regular season.
But for now, let this play stand as a perfect example of why John Fox, Mike McCoy, and Peyton Manning want Lance Ball among the Broncos' active 46 on game days.