DENVER -- A game ball is given in recognition of a job well done.
The game ball from the Denver Broncos' game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday is beyond that. It is validation of what Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has done for a career, a remembrance of being a part of something much larger.
"Game balls -- game balls are how you remember things sometimes," Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "You can look right at them and remember everything right away. They're painted, got the date, the score, the teams. They're a story every time. And Peyton? He's got a lot of stories."
The story Sunday was told in the city of his second NFL chapter as Manning added one of the most difficult NFL records to achieve to his already-crowded résumé. With his 4-yard pass to Ronnie Hillman, he set the record for career passing yards. Manning, who has 71,871 yards after Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, passed Brett Favre on the all-time list.
Manning added the milestone to the substantial list that includes most passing yards in a season, most career touchdowns, most touchdowns in a season, most 4,000-yard seasons, most 300-yard games and most games in a career with four or more touchdown passes.
And someday, perhaps, the game ball will be displayed in a room somewhere. A big room. A really, really big room.
"Think about it: Peyton is probably winning 10 game balls a year, 10 a year at least," Ware said. "So, that's 170 before this year, at least, so he'll be right up at 180 when this year is over. I usually get maybe seven game balls every year, and I've got them all in a bin and someday I'll build some place to put them so I can sit and look at them, enjoy them, remember the games. But Peyton, he would need a museum, something that big. Yeah, a museum."
Manning will go into the Hall of Fame five years after he retires. This is his 18th season, and with each passing week it seems he hits another benchmark. But the record Sunday represents longevity, excellence, durability, a little luck and countless hours of preparation, all wrapped up.
This is how Peyton Manning joined the record books and became the NFL all-time leader in career passing yards https://t.co/snFpuavBph— NFL (@NFL) November 15, 2015
"Peyton would never talk about any of that," linebacker Todd Davis said. "That's not what we see from him. He's got too much humility for that. But we all know, we all know the numbers and there isn't anybody in this locker room that doesn't want to help him set every record that can be set. We're all going to look back someday and say we were there. And a game ball from that day, if you can do that, then that's even better. You could look at that and it would all come back."
Manning has traditionally steered clear of talking about what records mean to him. He called Sunday's game "one of those important division matchups," and didn't acknowledge any disappointment, at least beyond losing a game, about last Sunday's stumble in Indianapolis, to his former team, that left him three passing yards short of the milestone.
He also swatted aside any discussion of the standings, the playoffs and the additional parts of the league's record book he put his name into against the Chiefs.
"We're trying to win every game, that's your job is to try to win every game that you play," Manning said. "We're disappointed about [last] Sunday, but we have to move on, have to learn from it and hopefully it can make us better. That's what we're trying to do this week is to correct some of those mistakes and try to be better the next time."
The wins, the memories, the work, the teammates, the coaches, time spent -- it's all there.
"Question is how many animals have lost their lives to make those balls? I think he's got a decent farm by now," tackle Ryan Harris said. "He's got to be at least 10 a year, at least, if over-under is 150, I'm taking the over. He could put one in every Papa John's.
"That passing yards record, that's 41 miles? I'd love to know how long it would take if me and you just threw a football back and forth to each other, how long it would take to get to 41 miles. How much time would that take? And to have not just one person, but four, five, six, maybe seven people running at you. The bottom line is no question, every single guy on this team feels fortunate to be on the same team with him. And there will be a time when we look at a game ball, hopefully, and remember it all."