DENVER – There were 33 food tents set up in the grassy area outside the stadium's Ring of Fame Plaza, but the longest line of patrons formed outside the one where Emmanuel Sanders was positioned.
With all due respect to the outstanding fare served at the Taste of Broncos on Monday night, this particular line wasn’t there for the delectable.
People wanted a selfie taken with the Broncos’ hottest receiver and Sanders obliged them all with a smile.
“You see the fans out here, we have sold out games, the city treats us so well, we’ve got to treat them the same way they treat us,’’ Sanders said during an interview break with 9News. “I wear my heart on my sleeve and it means a lot to me to put it on, be healthy and be there and make those plays, see that thing (stadium) erupt. I’m hungry for the fans, I’m hungry for my family, I’m hungry for myself. I want to win.’’
Those 10 catches for 135 yards with a touchdown scamper worthy of a flip weren’t a season-opening fluke for Sanders. He had been putting forth a 10-135 effort since organized team activities (OTAs) began in late-May and continued with his 10-135-caliber training camp.
Sanders has always been a practice guy -- he catches hundreds of extra balls on the side through the week. But that hunger he referred to has been perceptible. Turns out, 10-135 didn’t come from criticism about his age (although maybe a little) or that the guaranteed portion of his contract expires after this season (he is under contract for a non-guaranteed $10.25 million salary in 2019) or that the Broncos drafted two possible heir apparent receivers in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.
No, Sanders said, the motivation behind 10-135 was last year’s disappointing 5-11 record and 47-catch/555-yard production. A year he didn’t want to repeat, especially after he averaged 11 wins, 85 catches and 1,190 yards in his first three seasons with the Broncos.
“Last year, going through a losing season and being hurt, I was motivated all off season,’’ Sanders said. “Making sure I’m eating right, taking care of my body so we can try and turn this thing around. I know what it’s like to be a Bronco. I’ve been a Bronco for five years and having a losing season is not how you be a Bronco.’’
Sanders' huge opener helped the Broncos defeat the Seattle Seahawks, 27-24, on Sunday afternoon at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. A day later and standing just outside the stadium, Sanders reflected on there is a different feel to the team in 2018.
The Broncos won their opener last year, too, and thought they were headed for a deep playoff run after their 3-1 start, only to be eliminated eight terrible weeks later. This year’s 1-0 Broncos are much more optimistic their offense will carry its share yet guarded against another letdown.
“We can’t get complacent,’’ Sanders said. “I mean (Monday) I came in to work and those young guys were joking around -- they don’t understand you can get on a high but in two games you can go from 1-0 to 1-2. We can’t allow that to happen. We have to keep on trying to get better, keep on producing as an offense, keep on limiting the explosive plays on the defensive side of the ball and keep getting better.
“The veteran guys, we’re responsible for keeping these guys in line, and we’re doing it. At the end of the day, we want a winning season. We want to win a Super Bowl, but we want a winning season, we want to win a lot of games around here, we want to dominate.’’