ReFo: Dolphins @ Broncos, Week 12
Coming into the week, it seemed as if the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos were headed in opposite directions. The Dolphins appeared prime to make the move to “contender” status in the AFC while the Broncos had hit a mid-season lull that had analysts questioning their position as one of the league’s best. A changing of the guard lost out to status quo as the Broncos staved off an early onslaught by the Dolphins’ defense and quieted their doubters to come away with the 39-36 victory.
It was a disappointing effort for a Miami defense that was thought to be prepared to hang with the league’s elite offenses while Denver’s offense proved they have the ability to win with more than just the passing game, answering major questions stemming from a poor showing just a week ago.
Here’s a look at the performances that shaped this AFC battle.
Miami Dolphins – Performances of Note
Defensive Line: -20.7
Breakdown: This game started and ended in the trenches. The Broncos came in looking to re-stablish their identity at the line of scrimmage and the Dolphins were simply unable to keep up. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was only pressured on three of his 36 drop-backs and Miami had no answer for a Denver running game that picked up 201 yards on 35 carries. Seven defensive linemen played at least 10 snaps, with DT Randy Starks posting the lowest grade of the bunch (-5.6) as it was often his gap that was targeted by Denver’s cutback zone running scheme.
Signature Stat: The defensive line managed only one hurry on Manning’s 36 dropbacks.
Ryan Tannehill, QB: +5.8
Breakdown: It was an efficient outing for Tannehill that featured few misses and a number of strong throws at the intermediate level. It’s hard to blame him for the late-game interception that was slightly altered at the line of scrimmage and found its way through the catch point and into the hands of safety T.J. Ward, but unfortunately, that might be the play for which he is remembered in this game. Instead, it should be his well-thrown touchdown pass to WR Mike Wallace with 2:00 minutes to go in the first half or is other two touchdown passes and rushing touchdown that helped Miami stay in the game against one of the league’s best offenses.
Signature Stat: On passes thrown between 10-20 yards, Tannehill went 7-for-8 for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Dallas Thomas, RT: -5.6
Breakdown: Thomas was often matched up against Broncos OLB Von Miller and he struggled at times in pass protection. He surrendered four hurries and a hit on 40 pass block attempts, and there were a number of other missed blocks that didn’t even register as pressure.
Signature Plays: Miller gave Thomas trouble with his quick spin move at the 0:49 second mark of the first quarter and later got the edge with speed at the 3:08 mark of the fourth quarter. Those are just two examples of quick pressures that forced Tannehill off his spot.
Denver Broncos – Performances of Note
Offensive Line: +16.9
Breakdown: After a week under the microscope, the Broncos’ offensive line responded to their criticism as they set the tone in the running game and kept Manning clean all afternoon. Perhaps it was a telling sign that Denver’s first play from scrimmage was a “blast” play that saw the entire line fire off the ball and get movement on the Miami defensive line, a foreshadowing that the running game was a priority this week. All five starters graded positively while backup tackle Paul Cornick played 18 snaps at tight end and posted a +1.5 grade of his own. It was an impressive effort as the line dominated from start to finish.
Signature Stat: No offensive lineman was charged with surrendering a pressure.
C.J. Anderson, RB: +4.2
Breakdown: Anderson has filled in nicely when given ample opportunity as he posted his third straight grade in the green. He finished with 167 yards on 27 carries while adding four catches for 28 yards. He’s proven difficult to tackle as he forced eight misses and his 63.8 Elusive Rating ranks sixth among running backs over the last three weeks.
Signature Plays: It was a game-filled with efficient, chain-moving cuts, but Anderson’s run at the 10:47 mark of the second quarter showed his speed to get to the edge then some niftiness in the open field on his way to a 25-yard gain.
Terrance Knighton, DT: +1.2
Breakdown: Knighton had a strong game against the run, leading the Broncos with three run game stops while adding a clean-up sack on his 18 pass rushes.
Signature Plays: Knighton had his way with center Samson Satele on a couple of running plays late in the second quarter, first standing up him at the 4:20 mark then squeezing the point of attack with 3:20 to go.
PFF Game Ball
While it was a will-imposing effort by the Broncos’ offensive line, RB C.J. Anderson deserves credit for his 167 yards on 27 carries that included eight broken tackles (including three in the passing game) and a touchdown.
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