PHOENIX —** When the two Pro Bowl teams split up the eight available Broncos, you knew it wouldn't end completely happily for everyone from Denver.
It wasn't just a matter of winning or losing that was a factor, either, with a few teammates playing against each other in direct matchups.
It came to a head for Emmanuel Sanders and Aqib Talib in the fourth quarter with Team Irvin trying to drive for a touchdown to take the lead with a few minutes left in the game. Just a couple yards from the end zone, Sanders ran a fade route to the right corner with Talib pressing in man coverage. Talib came out victorious on the play, batting down the ball, much to the chagrin of Sanders, who scored two touchdowns that night but was looking for a third.
"I'm not too happy about Talib beating me on that fade ball," Sanders said with a laugh. "I feel like I should have scored that, but it's all good. I know I've got to hear about it once I leave this locker room."
However, Talib said he wouldn't bring it up as part of their conversations.
"The pass break-up probably won't be in the discussion, but if I would have let him catch that touchdown, it definitely would have been in the discussion for a long time," Talib said. "So I'm glad I didn't let him catch that touchdown."
Sanders wanted three touchdowns to have a good shot at Pro Bowl MVP, but even though he was disappointed with missing on that one pass, he finished with five catches for 70 yards to go with his two touchdowns. Plus, he got the win.
In addition to Sanders, Team Irvin took C.J. Anderson, Chris Harris Jr., Von Miller, Emmanuel Sanders and DeMarcus Ware as part of their squad that won 32-28. Team Carter included just two Broncos: Talib and Ryan Clady.
Clady also went up against a teammate in Ware, but they played it a bit safer.
"We actually signed a contract before the game to let us know we can't bump over 75; we have to stay at 50 percent," Ware joked. "But it was funny going against Clady, and we know we always take care of each other."
Though many players eased off their gas pedals a little bit to maintain their health and their bodies, two Broncos that looked pretty close to full effort were Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller.
"I played safety, corner, nickel, kind of how I do every time," Harris said. "So I kind of felt at home. I played pretty much the whole game."
Between Harris, Miller and Ware, the three played a pretty large percentage of Team Irvin's defensive snaps. And that came up big late in the game with Team Carter attempting to pull off a drive with a minute left to regain their lead and the get the win. But they couldn't convert on fourth down and Team Irvin took over from there.
"We were just making sure we got a stop," Harris said. "[There's] a lot of money on the line so we was like 'Man, we need to make sure we get that.'"
Harris, who said he was looking for an interception because he wanted one of the trucks that would be given to the offensive and defensive MVPs, nearly got one — but he had an equipment malfunction: "My shoe came off at the same time, so I was kind of thinking about my shoe and that's what got me."
For Miller, who led Team Irvin in tackles and led both teams in quarterback hits with five, said his competitiveness just took over.
"I just wanted to come out here and play hard," said Miller, who would ask for the final defensive numbers after the game was over. "Last game of the season, I wanted to make sure I went out with a bang. And most of all, I wanted to win! I'm a competitor. I wanted to win."
Even though not all Broncos could win the game, it was a success for all of them in that those select eight all made it to the game in the first place and they all left it unscathed, ready and able to go back to work without a speed bump.
"I think the biggest win is just everybody coming out healthy," C.J. Anderson said. "Everybody can go back to their clubs and get ready for the next season because there's a lot of talent on this field and you don't want to see nobody get injured, so I think the biggest win is just everybody coming out healthy."