ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- By this time a week ago, Denver Broncos wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas had expressed their frustrations with the direction and output of the team's offense and their place in it.
In short, they wanted the ball more. Then the Broncos went to Cincinnati and chucked the ball all over Paul Brown Stadium as quarterback Trevor Siemian threw for 312 yards in a 29-17 victory in which Sanders finished with 117 yards receiving and Thomas 100.
If the ask-and-you-shall-receive strategy worked and that makes Sanders a diva ... well, he's OK with that.
"Hey, one thing, I don't mind being a diva," Sanders said with a laugh. "I am a diva. I am a diva. I like winning ballgames, I like catching passes. Every wide receiver in the world likes to catch passes; every wide receiver in the world likes to put up points. After that game when the defense scored two touchdowns and you're looking and [cornerback Aqib] Talib has more touchdowns [than the wide receivers] and the defense is holding us down, we're looking at ourselves and saying offensively that we have to step it up."
Asked if that meant Thomas was a diva as well, Sanders said, "He's like a country diva. I'm like a Hollywood diva."
Said Thomas, with a smile: "I'm from the country, I drive a Ford [truck]. Ain't nothing wrong with that."
The big afternoon in Cincinnati pushed both Sanders and Thomas into the upper tier statistically among NFL receivers, Thomas with 238 yards on 15 catches and Sanders with 205 yards on 17.
Sanders, in particular, says he believes that passing outburst was proof Denver's offense can be balanced, productive and still include the receivers plenty.
"We can be dangerous," Sanders said. "I think that's the reason our articles last week said that Demaryius and me were frustrated, obviously because we know the potential of this offense. We know that we can have a balanced attack and we can go out and throw 300 yards and four touchdowns and we can also run the ball, too. We can rush for 150 yards. Obviously all of that comes with preparation out on the field and executing at a high level and maximizing our potential."
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak was unfazed last week when the two receivers went public with their desire for not only more passes to them but for more passes overall. Through two games, the Broncos had one more rushing attempt than they had pass attempts.
Kubiak said he wanted receivers who demanded the ball, and the pair's standing in the locker room meant their desire to be more a part of things was a non-issue. Thomas, after all, is a team captain.
"Those guys work their tails off in practice," Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "They hang out, when I see them anyway, they compete, they compete with the [defensive backs] and I think they do compete with each other. They just work so hard at it. It's hard for me to say, you'll have to ask them. They do a good job, though. I'm glad we have them."
Sanders said: "It was received the right way. You guys write the stories and you say it how you want to say it, but in that locker room everybody knows our personalities. Everybody knows my personality, Demaryius' personality; everybody knows that we're going to work our butts off. At the end of the day, that was just one week. We have 16 weeks and obviously everybody is invested in the best for this team. That's what it's about and we're progressing and trying to get better, hopefully before and after Sunday."
On Sunday, the Broncos visit a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that enters ranked 19th in the league in pass defense, allowing 272 yards per game through the air. Kubiak has made no promises about how the offense will go in Week 4, or any other week, beyond the fact he'd always like to get the ball into the hands of the team's best playmakers -- a list that includes Thomas and Sanders.
Kubiak has said it's all about "how you get played."
In the end, the Broncos' receivers, who have both been named to the Pro Bowl during their seven-year careers, have another trip to the Super Bowl among their lofty goals. Asked if they could be the best receiving duo in the league along the way ... well, they were confident there, too.
"I think so if we stay healthy," Sanders said. "I don't see why not."
Thomas said: "We kind of knew each other then and once he came here we just clicked like brothers, like friends. We push each other every week to try to see who can be better just to try to be the best that does it."