1) Broncos Controlled Line of Scrimmage
The Denver Broncos left little doubt about how the game on Sunday would be won, and it was ultimately decided at the line of scrimmage. Other than the opening moments of the first quarter, it was the Broncos who were the dominant team along the trenches. For most of the afternoon, Miami's offensive line couldn't keep the pressure off of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Denver's front seven did an excellent job of disrupting the timing of the Dolphins pass offense, while also shutting down any semblance of a rushing attack. They held the Dolphins to just 56 yards on the ground, and rattled the young quarterback with six sacks and five three-and outs. Rookie running back Salvon Ahmed produced when he had the room to run, but too many missed assignments or losing individual blocks made Ahmed's job extremely difficult to execute. Miami never seemed to threaten the Broncos defense even though it was a one-score game for most of the contest. On the other side of the line, Denver simply ran the football when they wanted to, dictating the tempo of the game. Both Broncos running backs Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay averaged more than five yards per carry and combined for 166 yards on the ground. The edge of the Dolphins defense was no match for the Broncos' counter plays, easily getting chunk yards on the perimeter and running through the second level of the Miami defense. Both Gordon and Lindsey had runs of at least 20 yards, and Gordon accounted for two touchdowns on the ground.
2) Missed Opportunities
In a game that the score stayed close throughout, the Dolphins had their chances to find a way to get a win on the road. The score at halftime was just a three-point advantage at 13-10 Denver, and the Dolphins were very fortunate to be that close. Miami's offense accounted for only 82 total yards, and gave up three sacks in the first 30 minutes. When the third quarter started, the Broncos continued to run the ball, and found explosive plays in the passing game. They managed to move the offense with ease inside the Miami 20-yard line. They faced a fourth-and-one from the Dolphins 14 yard line. That's when linebacker Elandon Roberts and company led a charge towards the line of scrimmage. They met Denver running back Melvin Gordon head on and got the football back for the offense. It seemed like the turning point for the game was again provided by the defense. The only problem was the Dolphins offense couldn't get anything going. They gave the ball right back to the Broncos offense, and quarterback Drew Lock directed a drive that ended with a 20-yard rushing touchdown by Gordon. The last chance the Dolphins offense mounted was when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter. Fitz led one scoring drive that ended with a 53-yard field goal by place kicker Jason Sanders that cut the score to 20-13. Again, just as it happened in the third quarter, the defense came up with a turnover. This time it was linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel that punched the ball out of the grasp of Gordon, just as he was approaching the goal line. The ball popped loose and safety Eric Rowe pounced on it, giving the Miami offense one last chance late in the game. Back-to-back third-down conversions to Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker moved the football into Denver territory. Miami just needed one more explosive play to find the end zone, with a chance to either tie the score or go for two to win the game. But Broncos safety Justin Simmons stepped in front of a Fitzpatrick pass, and ended the Dolphins hopes for victory. It was the third interception for Simmons in his last four games.
3) Lost One-On-One Battles
Dolphins fans need to remember that the loss against the Broncos only counts as one loss, even though it might have felt like much more. As I watched the game, it felt we lost too many individual matchups than normal. At the line of scrimmage, there were many times were we just simply missed a twist, or just got beat with power and speed right off of the snap of the football. On defense, we had difficulty getting off of a blocks from a pulling guard or tackle on numerous counter plays. At wide out, the Miami receiving corpse couldn't create consistent separation that allowed the passing game to get on track. And lastly, in the second level of the Dolphins defense, we missed many chances to slow down the Denver running game with missed tackles that allowed to yards after first contact, or couldn't bring down a receiver after the initial catch. It just seemed like one of those weeks where Denver found a way to withstand their early mistakes and find their confidence while the Dolphins couldn't gain any momentum or rhythm on either side of the ball. Hitting delete after correcting those mistakes might be the best way to approach getting ready to face the Jets this Sunday. You don't want one game or one loss to beat you again this week, especially when the margin for errors get smaller at the end of the season.