Sanders makes highlight films with his smash-mouth style and knack for always being near the ball. His value as a leader -- the Peyton Manning of the Colts' defense, if you will -- was just as much a factor in Indianapolis having the third-ranked unit in the NFL and allowing just 262 points, a league low.
Yes, these Colts can play dominating defense, and Sanders is the main reason.
"One of the things we talked about when he first got here was how critical this position is in this defense," said coach Tony Dungy, who has nicknamed Sanders "The Eraser."
"Donnie Shell went to five Pro Bowls, and John Lynch went to I don't even know how many Pro Bowls. You get asked to do a lot of things in this defense, and it's rare to find someone who can do those things."
Sanders did enough to earn 31 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. That was particularly impressive because it was a strong season for individual defensive performances.
Yet next closest in the balloting were Seattle end Patrick Kerney and Tennessee tackle Albert Haynesworth with four votes each.
Sanders was a huge factor in the Colts' surge to the Super Bowl title last year. He missed most of the regular season, got healthy for the playoffs, and suddenly teams couldn't run or pass effectively on Indy.
With Sanders in the lineup for 15 games this season, the Colts were superb defensively on their way to a 13-3 record and the AFC South crown.
Not that Sanders laid back in an attempt to stay healthy.
"[The award] is a goal I set for myself every year and for it to come so fast is something I never expected," Sanders said. "It's exciting, it's an honor and I will cherish this moment forever."
His teammates were celebrating right there next to him.
Indianapolis is typically regarded as an offensive juggernaut, and Sanders is the first Colts player to win the defensive award.
Plus, he did it in a season when the Colts lost their other key defender, Dwight Freeney, for the final seven games with a season-ending foot injury. Freeney was just one of a handful of starters who missed games, but Sanders remained the constant on defense.
|Bob Sanders||2007 Colts|
|Ed Reed||2004 Ravens|
|Kenny Easley||1984 Seahawks|
|Dick Anderson||1973 Dolphins|