ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos are desperate.
After back-to-back losses to start the season, they’ve hit an early do-or-die game against the undefeated Miami Dolphins. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. MDT on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. The Broncos are 6.5-point underdogs.
Here’s how the Broncs can win the game…
No Free Yards
The Dolphins make playing offense look easy, and the Broncos can’t afford to make life any easier for them.
Take a peek at any offensive stat and the Dolphins will be near the top…
- They pick up 7.3 yards per play, a full yard more than any other team.
- They pick up 9.5 yards per pass, which is 1.3 yards more than any other team.
- They’ve picked up 100 more total yards than any other team.
- They’ve scored the most points of any team in the AFC.
That’s why the Broncos can’t afford to give the Dolphins anything easy. Tackling will be crucial on Sunday.
In the running game, the Broncos need their defensive front to finally provide penetration and free up the linebackers. Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert is one of the fastest in the league—in the Madden 24 video game, he’s tied with his backup Devon Achane as the fastest back in the league—and his 5.6 yards per carry is a top-10 mark in the league. Getting him on the ground on the first attempt is crucial, since he’s a threat to make a big play whenever he touches the ball.
Quick tackles in the passing game might be even more important. Broncos fans know what Tyreek Hill is capable of, but stud wideout Jalen Waddle might be even more of a threat to run after the catch. Through two weeks, Waddle is the NFL leader in yards after catch per reception and more than half of his 164 yards have come with the ball in his hands. He’s questionable for the game because he’s recovering from a concussion.
The final piece of the equation is limiting penalties. Through two weeks, the Broncos defense has given up 10 first downs by penalty. That’s the most in the league and nearly three times the league average. Giving the team with the second-most first downs in the league some freebies is a bad idea.
The Broncos’ Week 1 gameplan up front was solid in theory but didn’t quite work.
Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gets the ball out of his hands as fast as just about any passer in the league, so the Broncos’ defensive line and pass rushers emphasized getting their hands up into passing lanes. Unfortunately, they never actually got their hands on a pass.
This week, they should run that formula back.
Tua Tagovailoa has gotten rid of the ball in 2.28 seconds on average so far this season, which is easily the fastest mark in the NFL. Thanks to his quick release, he’s only been sacked once.
The Broncos’ pass rush had its moments against the Commanders, but its best bet is to sit back and try to bat passes.
Run the Football
The Broncos are built to run the football. While the results have been mixed through two weeks, Denver should be able to build momentum on the ground in Miami.
At the core of the Vic Fangio defense is a philosophy that stopping big plays is the top priority. That means keeping safeties deep, playing top down on the boundaries and taking some emphasis off of stopping the run.
Through two games, Miami ranks in 27th in rushing yards allowed per attempt and 28th in totally rushing yards allowed. No team has given up as many first downs on the ground as the Dolphins, and their third-down defense overall is ranked 30th in the NFL.
The key for the Broncos’ offense will be establishing a rushing attack and riding it for 60 minutes. If all goes according to plan, the Denver offense should have no trouble staying on schedule and converting short third downs.
Garett must win
Garett Bolles will line up against a friendly face on Sunday: Bradley Chubb.
Of Chubb’s 137 defensive snaps this season, he’s lined up on the defense’s right side 132 times. This week, that means he’ll likely spend the majority of the game working against Bolles, his teammate for five seasons.
No Dolphin, including Chubb, has multiple sacks this season, but Chubb has been the most consistent rusher. Miami’s other top edge rusher, Jaelan Phillips, missed last week with a back injury and has been limited in practice this week. If he doesn’t play, then Chubb will be the most fearsome Miami rusher, and it will be up to Bolles to slow him down.
Chubb has been more productive in the run game than the passing game, so keeping him at bay will be key in both offensive phases. If the Broncos don’t need to send help to Bolles’ side, they’ll have a great chance of scoring a bunch of points.
With two of the game’s top deep threats and a quarterback who is leading the NFL in both passing yards and average depth of completion, the Broncos are guaranteed to leave their safeties deep for most of the day. But they should keep a special eye on helping out Damarri Mathis.
Mathis has struggled through the first two weeks of the season, and this will be his toughest assignment yet. Given that the Dolphins use pre-snap motion more than just about any team in the league, the Broncos won’t be able to pick out matchups between their cornerbacks and the Miami receivers. There’s no avoiding matchups between Tyreek Hill and Mathis.
The Broncos need to help Mathis out, but if that doesn’t work then it will be time to make a change. What that change would look like will depend on whether Justin Simmons is available to play. With Simmons on the field, Ja’Quan McMillian would probably be the first man up. But if Simmons doesn’t play, Essang Bassey will probably move from starting nickel to starting free safety, with McMillian taking his place in the slot. That would leave rookie Riley Moss as the top boundary option, if the Broncos coaches decide they need a change.
Dolphins coaches have faced questions this week about whether they’re planning to sub out cornerback Eli Apple after his slow start to the season. Although Apple and Mathis won’t be on the field at the same time, but the CB2 matchup could be one of the key deciders in the game.