Manning, Sanders Quickly Find Their Rhythm
That’s good timing, too, especially with Wes Welker suffering another concussion.
Sanders returned to the field Saturday night after missing a chunk of training camp with an ailing thigh and quickly developed a rapport with the Denver Broncos quarterback.
Sanders caught five passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns in an 18-17 preseason loss to Houston.
But the burgeoning chemistry between Manning and Sanders was overshadowed a bit by the loss of Welker, who has to go through the league’s concussion protocol before he can return. Welker missed the final three games last season after his second concussion.
PHOTO GALLERY: Texans 18, Broncos 17
Sanders put on quite a show Saturday and punctuated his performance by unveiling his newest TD celebration move – a bow to the crowd. He expects to be doing a lot of bowing in this potent offense, especially now that he’s on the same page with No. 18.
“Peyton made it easy on me,” said Sanders, who’s swapping Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger for Manning after signing a free-agent deal in March. “Every single pass that I caught was a good ball, a catchable ball.”
Then again, this is Manning, who takes pride in his precision. But all of that is predicated on one thing – timing. With Sanders only practicing sparingly this month, Manning hasn’t had the reps with the receiver that’s expected to fill the cleats of Eric Decker.
That’s why Manning looked for Sanders early and often against the Texans, throwing his way eight times.
At the start, they looked a little out of sync, with defensive back A.J. Bouye jumping in front of a Sanders route and picking off a pass.
Sanders pounded the ground in frustration as if he may have been culpable, but after the game Manning took responsibility for the miscue.
“That was a bad throw – a bad throw and a bad decision,” Manning said. “It wasn’t open. Poor throw and poor decision by me.”
They quickly made up for it, with Sanders hauling in a 67-yard TD pass late in the second quarter and then a 29-yarder a minute later. Sanders then unveiled his bow, which fired up the crowd.
“At the end of a show, you give a bow,” Sanders explained. “We’re all actors. We’re all entertainers. It’s an end-of-the-show bow.
“I’m extremely optimistic about this offense and the potential of it.”
The team is a little thin at receiver with Jordan Norwood tearing his left ACL last week in practice and now Welker’s injury. Welker was leveled by Texans defensive back D.J. Swearinger after catching a short pass over the middle with just seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Swearinger drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for the hit on Welker, who has a history of concussions and wears a bigger helmet to further protect his head.
Manning took exception to the hit and yelled at Swearinger soon after throwing his second TD pass to Sanders. Manning drew a taunting penalty for his outburst.
That sort of loyalty impressed Sanders.
“Most teams, they call the other guys teammates,” said Sanders, who had 67 catches for 740 yards and six TDs in 2013. “We’re brothers here. We’re a band of brothers. Wes went down and a guy was standing over him, taunting him – Peyton doesn’t like that.
“If Peyton is addressing a situation, that means it was a bad situation.”
As for his timing with his new quarterback, Sanders points to the maestro.
“The thing about Peyton, he’s going to figure you out,” Sanders said. “He makes my job easy.”
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– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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