CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Broncos rank second to last in passing first downs this season. Yet, they don't rank first in grousing. Unlike a year ago when he "panicked" over his nosediving statistics, receiver Emmanuel Sanders believes in the balance of this year's offense. It represents another example of the "we vs. me" mentality developing this season.
"I'll tell you what, it feels good to have a running attack. We're built for December and January. I have been part of two Super Bowl teams. And in those months, you have to be able to run the ball and play smash mouth," Sanders said. "Me and Demaryius know that when we get our opportunities we need to make the most of it."
In truth, the offensive numbers represent more of a fantasy concern than a reality problem. The Broncos rank third in rushing yards per game at 143.0. Teams continue to dare the Broncos to stay on the ground, and they have responded by imposing their will. To win in the NFL, a team must pass effectively. But forcing passes -- as seen last Sunday in Pittsburgh -- remains a recipe for failure. The belief is that teams will eventually center on stopping the running game, opening up routes in man coverage.
As it stands, Sanders and Thomas have been targeted 64 times, the same number as league leader Antonio Brown. With similar stats last year, Sanders and Thomas complained, raising eyebrows given their lack of support for first-year starter Trevor Siemian. This season, everything feels different.
"They want to win. And they also want the ball. All superstars do. I should get it to them. But with our roster, we have a lot of players (deserving)," offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. "I just love the way they work."
Sanders and Thomas have combined for eight straight 1,000 yard seasons. History says they will flourish. The team, however, already is.
"They're going to get their chances. It's only a matter of time," Siemian said. "When you are losing a bunch of games, it makes it harder on everybody. But we're winning. I am not worried. Those guys are going to get their touches."
McCoy said he wished every rookie had tight end Jake Butt's "mindset." Butt expects to begin practicing Monday and could play as soon as next week. Defensive players are already talking about the rookie making an impact in the red zone. ... Paxton Lynch threw from 5-to-7 yards on Wednesday, testing his right shoulder. He has been brought along cautiously, and remains a candidate for injured reserve given Brock Osweiler's grip on the backup job. The Broncos will require two roster spots to activate Shane Ray for the Chiefs game and Butt. ... Defensive coordinator Joe Woods on catalyst nose tackle Domata Peko. "He comes to work with a smile on his face everyday. He loves playing football. He's been great for us in the locker room, and in the classroom." ... The Broncos plan to continue to rotate left guards Max Garcia and Allen Barbre.