INDIANAPOLIS – While Colts Nation held their breath, Denver's Emmanuel Sanders was finally breathing.
Vontae Davis was down, possibly hurt after the Broncos tried unsuccessfully to complete a late second-quarter pass against the Colts Pro Bowl cornerback (a common theme during the Colts Divisional Round playoff win in Denver last season).
Davis took an early visit to the visiting locker room. Halftime was spent wondering if Davis would return to the lineup, surely a must for the Colts defense to continue to keep the Denver offense at bay.
Unfortunately for Sanders (and the entire Broncos offense), Davis ran back out with the Colts following halftime and turned in one of the finest playoff performances in team history (five pass deflections).
After Denver's season-ending loss, Sanders had seen enough of Davis but that didn't squelch his appreciation for the Colts cornerback.
"(Davis) was the second best corner I went against this year and I faced him twice," Sanders said of the 2014 season Davis had.
"I have all the respect in the world for his game. He was definitely the number two (cornerback), and that's coming from me going against Richard Sherman and all of these other guys. Definitely number one was Darrelle Revis, but definitely, Vontae was number two."
Sanders first saw Davis in the 2014 season opener.
Denver held on to beat the Colts, 31-24, on Sunday Night Football, but Sanders remembers Davis allowing just one reception (for five yards) in the five passes thrown the corner's way.
That Week One matchup was just the beginning of a season where Davis virtually eliminated one half of the field, more often than not.
The respect around the NFL has come.
Davis was ranked No. 59 on the NFL’s Top 100 players for 2015, a list voted strictly by other players.
If it was up to Sanders though, Davis would find himself much, much higher.
"Vontae was definitely the second best corner I went up against (in 2014)," Sanders said.
"He's just smart. He's very smart. He's very patient at the line of scrimmage so you can't dance too much because you're going to get into a lot of trouble. The speed release is how you get him but still when you try to speed release, he's very physical at the line of scrimmage. That's a recipe for success at cornerback."