The Denver Broncos got back to their winning ways this Sunday with a 20-13 over the Miami Dolphins in Denver. In what was the most complete game from the Broncos, it was their defense that truly shined in the big win. As always, let’s get to the weekly game recap and review to breakdown the victory.
The Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins were trending in opposite directions leading into this game. The Broncos were trying to end a two game losing streak with their young quarterback struggling, while the Dolphins were looking for their sixth straight win, and fourth in-a-row with a rookie quarterback. But, it was the Denver defense which led off the game with a three-and-out. However, Drew Lock threw a bad interception, and it looked like Broncos Country and Lock were in for another long day. Tua Tagovailoa led the Dolphins down the field and into the endzone after the turnover.
The two teams would exchange punts before the Broncos offense found it’s rhythm. Lock started to settle in after the early interception and orchestrated an 11-play drive. The Broncos were able to convert a few third and longs to keep the drive alive. Finally, Melvin Gordon powered into the endzone to tie up the game at 7-7.
The next three possessions were all three-and-outs as both defenses clamped down. The Broncos defense forced three three-and-outs following the Dolphins first touchdown. Unfortunately, the Broncos also struggled to move the ball and had a three-and-out of their own.
All scoring in the second quarter came courtesy of the field goal. It was the Broncos and Brandon McManus who struck first with a 29-yard kick. Down 10-7, Jason Sanders capped off a 14-play drive and tied the game with a 41-yard field goal. The Broncos offense closed out the first half with a 60-yard drive. McManus was able to convert again, this time for 47-yards, as the clock expired. Going into halftime, the Broncos were up 13-10.
The second half started with a turnover on downs for the Broncos. The offense marched into the Dolphins redzone with a very balanced run-pass attack. However, they couldn’t convert a fourth and one on the Dolphins 14 yard-line to keep the drive alive. I think it was the right decision to go for it, but the predictable Gordon run maybe wasn’t the best play call. Luckily, the Denver defense forced another third-and-out to give the offense another chance.
This time the Broncos were able to finish off the drive with a touchdown. A roughing the passer call helped the Broncos move down the field before Gordon scored on a 20-yard run. Gordon’s second touchdown of the day put the Broncos up 20-10.
The defense continued to disrupt Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense. Bradley Chubb sacked Tagovailoa to force another Dolphins punt. The Chubb sack was the Broncos’ sixth sack of the game.
Following a Broncos punt, Tagovailoa’s day was over. Ryan Fitzpatrick would come in and replace the 5th overall pick with 10:44 left in the game. The 15-year veteran did move the ball and helped the Dolphins close the gap with a 53-yard field goal.
With the Broncos up 20-13, they were looking to add to their lead. A couple of big plays by Noah Fant and Lindsay helped move the Broncos into the redzone. Unfortunately, Gordon fumbled on the Dolphins’ 2-yard line and Miami recovered. It was initially called a touchdown, but after review it was pretty clear Gordon coughed up the ball.
Down just a touchdown, Fitzmagic went to work. To make it interesting, the Dolphins drove 84-yards to the Broncos 15 with just 1:03 left in the game. Fitzpatrick fired a pass into the endzone, but Justin Simmons made a great play and stepped in front of the ball to seal the upset victory for Denver. The Broncos clocked the ball, including an interesting 61-yard play that was supposed to go out-of-bounds, for their fourth win of the season.
The Broncos move to 4-6 and will host the New Orleans Saints next Sunday. Meanwhile, the Dolphins fall to 6-4 and will travel to New York to play the Jets next week.
In what ended up being the most complete game of the Broncos season, it was nice to get a win again. Headlined by the defense and running game, let’s break down my ten instant takeaways after Sunday’s big win.
Lock Bounced Back:
There was a lot of negative buzz surrounding Drew Lock this week. The second year quarterback was coming off of a four interception performance, his worst game as a pro, and was dealing with some injured ribs. Even though he barely practiced this week, he still got the start on Sunday. When he threw that interception on the first drive, it seemed like we were in for another long, unfun day. However, to Lock’s credit, he bounced back and played pretty well. Lock started the contest 0/6 with the pick, but ended the day 18/30 with 270 passing yards. The game obviously wasn’t a masterpiece, but Lock’s resilience was noteworthy. Now, the next step, is building off of this game and not making the same mistakes twice. The Broncos will need Lock to play well again Sunday versus the Saints.
It Helps To Run The Ball:
Who would have thought that a strong running game could help this offense? Turns out, just about everyone excpet the Broncos knew it could be the difference maker. The Broncos finally took the cue and had a nice balanced attack on Sunday. The Broncos finished with 189 rushing yards and had a nice split of Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon. Lindsay finished with 16 carries and 82 yards, while Gordon tallied 15 carries and 84 yards. Gordon was also able to find the endzone twice against the Dolphins. The Broncos are now 6-0 in their last six games when Lindsay finishes with 15 or more carries, and are 10-4 over Lindsay’s three year career. It’s not a secret, but the Broncos need to lean on the running game, especially Phillip Lindsay, moving forward.
Offensive Line Deserves Credit:
While Lindsay and Gordon deserve credit, the offensive line made the magic happen. In the running game, they were doing a great job of opening holes and sealing off edges for the backs. It seemed like they added an effective wrinkle to the o-line scheme as well. Left guard Dalton Risner and left tackle Garrett Bolles seemed to be pulling more versus the Dolphins than they have in any other game. Both had some key blocks that sprung a few big runs. It should also be noted that Lock wasn’t sacked in this game, although he was hit a few times. Overall, it was a solid game up front for the Broncos, who greatly missed Graham Glasgow and Demar Dotson.
Great Overall Defensive Performance:
While the offense did their job, the Denver defense deserves a ton of credit for this win. Denver forced the Dolphins into five three-and-outs throughout the game. Plus, Justin Simmons sealed the game with a late interception in the endzone. It seemed like the whole defense was clicking. The secondary did a good job in coverage while the front seven did an amazing job rushing the passer and stopping the run. Miami only had 82 total yards in the first half. That kind of defense can carry a team, which Broncos Country is well aware of.
While the entire defense played well, we need to focus on the pass rush. The Broncos sacked Tua six times before his day was over. It was a group effort too, as five different Broncos finished with at least 0.5 sacks. DeShawn Williams led the way with two sacks, but Bradley Chubb, Malik Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, and Demarcus Walker were all part of the action. It seemed like the Broncos primarily used stunts to confuse the Dolphins’ offensive line. They did blitz a fair amount, but Coach Fangio said the Broncos had more blitzes up their sleeve if needed. This group just made sure that the rookie QB was never comfortable on Sunday. It’s so much easier to play defense when the QB feels constant pressure.
Pay Justin Simmons:
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. John Elway and the Broncos need to pay Justin Simmons. It would be one of the biggest mistakes of this regime if they let him leave in free agency. I’m not sure what else Simmons can do to show that he deserves his money either. The fifth year safety hasn’t missed a snap since 2018. He has 15 career interceptions, including four this year, and is a tackling machine. Simmons is the quarterback of that secondary and a leader on this team. Not to mention his countless contributions in the community which led him to be the Broncos Walter Payton Man of the Year last season. His game-clinching interception this week was just another example of his ability to make big plays when it matters most. I truly can’t believe that the Broncos have been so coy with his contract already. It’s time for him to get the money he rightfully deserves.
Turnovers Still A Problem:
Last week, one of my takeaways was about how much the Broncos has struggled with both offensive and defensive turnovers. Well, that issue still needs to be addressed. Two key turnovers could have doomed the Broncos this week. The Dolphins were able to convert after the Lock interception when he was staring down Tim Patrick. Then, when the Broncos were moving well downfield and had a chance to extend their lead, Gordon fumbled on the goalline. That second turnover gave Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins the chance to tie the game on their final drive. Luckily, the Simmons interception thwarted their attempt. Ball; security needs to continue be stressed moving forward.
Vannett Showed Life:
Free agent signee Nick Vannett hasn’t quite found his role yet in Denver, but had his best game against the Dolphins. Albert Okwuegbunam seemed to have taken most of Vannett’s reps, but after Albert O tore his ACL the opportunity for Vannett was there again. The former Pittsburgh Steeler and Seattle Seahawk is more of a blocking TE, but had two catches for 24 yards. Don’t expect Vannett to contribute quite like Albert O was, but he can definitely make an impact on this team. I’d expect to see him get a few targets every game moving forward.
What Happened to Ojemudia?:
It seems like it was a long time ago when we were singing the praise of rookie CB Michael Ojemudia. I don’t know what exactly happened but OJ is in the dog-house right now. It has been two straight weeks that he’s been active, but failed to see the field. Maybe it’s just that fellow rookie Essang Bassey and De’Vante Bausby are playing that well, but I find it hard to imagine that there aren’t any reps available for Ojemudia. Obviously A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan are the top dogs, but it seems like Ojemudia has fallen down the depth chart lately.
Road Ahead: The Brees-less Saints:
You’ve probably heard by now but future Hall of Famer Drew Brees broke 11 ribs and landed on the IR. That forced QB/TE/Do-it-All hybrid Taysom Hill into his first NFL start at QB. Well, Hill showed off his versatility and finished 18/23 for 233 passing yards and 51 rushing yards. He didn’t score through the air, but found the endzone twice on the ground. Hill is a tough player to scheme against because he can do a little bit of everything. I’d assume Fangio brings the heat and tries to disrupt Hill’s timing. Beyond Hill, the Broncos also need to account for superstar Alvin Kamara, who has 1,179 receiving and rushing yards. Not to mention, Kamara has scored 12 touchdowns in 2020. The Broncos will definitely have their hands full, but need to find another win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Bonus: Shoutout to Floyd Little
I do want to give a quick shoutout to “The Franchise”. Floyd Little went into hospice care over the weekend as he continues to battle cancer. Head Coach Vic Fangio said the Broncos would be sending the game ball to Little. Just an awesome move by the Broncos for a guy that is a Hall of Famer player and person. Broncos Country wishes you the best Floyd.
Let me know what you thought of the Broncos win over the Dolphins over on Twitter @gardenSPORTZ