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'I can't describe the things that he's done': Emmanuel Sanders makes impact felt, even when not catching passes

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Chargers, Emmanuel Sanders burst off the line of scrimmage from the right side of the formation.

With Michael Davis in coverage, he sprinted 10 yards and then broke toward the sideline. Joe Flacco delivered the ball, and Sanders recorded a 9-yard reception on the out route.

It was his only official target of the afternoon. He wouldn't touch the ball again.

You have to go back years to find a game in which Sanders played at least five offensive snaps and received so few targets. His third year in the league, he was targeted just once in a Week 16 game against the Bengals. Sanders was with the Steelers then, and he was only a spot starter.

He’s tallied at least three targets in every other game he’s played with Denver, with the exception of last week’s game in Los Angeles.

Now, the targets don’t tell the complete story.

As Head Coach Vic Fangio noted on Monday, Sanders was targeted a few plays earlier and drew a crucial pass interference call. Officially, though, the penalty didn’t count as a target.

While Sanders suffered through one of the least productive days of his career, his teammates and coaches saw him impact the game in other ways.

“I can’t describe the things that he’s done — as a receiver that’s been in the league this long — for the benefit of this team,” Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello said Thursday. “[He does] stuff that just you wouldn’t see on film that you wouldn’t get out of a lot of receivers in his position. And he has laid it on the line. And I’m proud of him, I love him to death, I would go to war with that guy any day of the week, and I want to get him the rock. It’s just sometimes the flow of the game doesn’t always work out. But that has not affected him in any other way, and he showed up all over the film in other ways.” 

Scangarello pointed to the pass interference call, as well as a play in the second quarter where Flacco was looking for Sanders in the end zone. Flacco was strip-sacked on the play, but he nearly connected with No. 10 for six.

“To Emmanuel’s credit, if you watch the way he went out there and blocked in the run game and set some of our guys for even bigger plays than they would have been, it’s pretty impressive,” Flacco said Wednesday.

Sanders, during his weekly media availability on Tuesday, didn’t complain about his lack of touches.

“Obviously, I want to be involved,” Sanders said. “I’m a competitor. I work hard during the week, but sometimes it just doesn’t go my way. I’m just going to keep chugging along.”

Chances are, that will result in an uptick of targets — and receptions, yards and touchdowns — for the two-time Pro Bowler. Sanders already has three games this season in which he received seven targets, and he tied a career high in receptions when he caught 11 passes in Week 2 against Chicago.

But even when he’s not snagging passes and turning upfield, it’s clear Sanders makes his impact felt in other ways — whether that’s in the run game or otherwise.

“In the end,” Scangarello said, “he’s the guy that we feed off his energy.”

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