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Broncos beat Dolphins 39-36 behind a balanced attack

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Winning sure beats losing, and it's wonderful to see the offense back on track with a running game.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

First Quarter

The Broncos won the toss and elected to defer, giving the ball to Miami to start the game. Miami wasted no time marching the length of the field on 7 plays. They came out in 11 personnel and spread the Broncos out, allowing Lamar Miller room to run the ball. Daniel Thomas capped things off with a 3 yard run.

On the ensuing Bronco drive, the Broncos their commitment to the run by coming out in heavy personnel with Paul Cornick and Virgil Green as blockers. It took the Broncos a little over 7 minutes to move the ball down to the Dolphin 21 yard line where the drive stalled after the Dolphins made a great tackle on Jacob Tamme on a WR screen. Dolphins lead 7-3.

Second Quarter

The Broncos defense remained flat allowing Tannehill the ability to scramble and bootleg to hit downfield throws against soft zone coverage. When they did man up across the board, Miami spread it out and ran the ball effectively with Lamar Miller who finished the half with a near 10 yard per carry average.

After exchanging scores and allowing a late Miami score, the Broncos had one last chance to put up points before the end of the half. Manning delivered against soft zone coverage and nailed a TD to Demaryius Thomas on a skinny post to pull the Broncos within 4 at halftime 21-17.

After the Half

Manning and company picked up where they left off and marched the ball all the way within the Dolphin 10 yardline. On 3rd and 1, Manning took an terrible sack (one of those where he dives in the fetal position) instead of throwing the ball away. Had he managed to get the ball away for an incompletion, the Broncos might have been able to convert on 4th and short. Instead, they march Brandon McManus into the game who clanks a 33 yard field goal attempt off the right upright. No Points and one pissed off offense:

Trying to get the ball back for their offense, the defense got real pressure on Ryan Tannehill sacking him several times, including a sack by Terrance Knighton that forced a 3rd and 22.  With a hold on 3rd down, the Broncos would get the ball back right?

Special Teams Strikes again

It's hard to win a game when a third of your unit is so inept. Isaiah Burse who has done exactly nothing all season fumbled the ball away trying to get an extra yard or two. The Dolphins would convert this flub into another touchdown, further extending their lead to 28-17.

The Offense keeps the team in the game

On the ensuing drive, the Broncos would see several near hits on the sideline as Emmanuel Sanders managed to beat man coverage on three separate plays. Manning would overthrow Sanders each time. On first and goal, Manning connected with Thomas for his 3rd touchdown reception of the evening. Going for 2 was successful when Manning found Sanders on a simple playaction concept.

The Finish

The Broncos would pull ahead for good after a CJ Anderson 10 yard run capped off an 11 play 70-yard drive. From there, TJ Ward would intercept Ryan Tannehill on a tipped pass and Manning would cap off the scoring with a quick strike to Wes Welker.

Positives

- For the first time in a long time, the Broncos found balance. They ran the ball a total of 33 times while throwing the ball a total of 35 times.

- Because they could run the ball, the playaction game was available and clicking for the offense.

- No Julius Thomas? No problem. In the redzone DT lined up where Julius normally would and produced three touchdown receptions. In two-TE sets, Broncos brought in Paul Cornick as a blocker and it helped open up holes.

- Peyton Manning other than misfiring deep a couple of times played a nice game. When the Broncos are running the ball and Peyton is converting 3rd downs, it is hard to stop.

- Speaking of Peyton Manning, the Dolphins didn't get a lot of pressure on him. They seemed content to try and play coverage most of the time with only a few blitzes here and there. To Manning's credit, he correctly diagnosed the biitz each time.

- Defensively, especially as the game wore on, players started making consistent plays that kept the Dolphins in 3rd and long situations.

- Despite losing Aqib Talib, the Broncos secondary stepped up collectively and made sure a lot of passes were contended.

- Saw more man to man coverage this game with mixed results. Will revisit this later on in the week.

- TJ Ward made the play of the game late in the 4th quarter by picking off a tipped pass from Ryan Tannehill. His return brought the ball all the way back to the 8 yardline where Manning found Wes Welker on a short out.

Negatives

- Special teams is just terrible. Fire and cut everyone. Start with McManus. See if we can get Prater back for a case of Coors.

- Don't field any punts for the rest of the season. 11 man blitz to block the punt everytime.  -

- On top of not playing up to his contract thus far, Aqib Talib also left the game with an injury. I suppose it is that time of the year.

- Apparently, football players do not wear cups to protect themselves.

Stars of the Game

CJ Anderson, 27 rushes, 167 yards, 1 TD, 4 receptions, 28 yards

Peyton Manning, 28/35 (80%), 257 yards, 4 TD

Demaryius Thomas, 10 receptions, 87 yards, 3 TD

Emmanuel Sanders, 9 receptions, 125 yards

Orlando Franklin, opened up a lot of holes today

(Defensive stats unavailable at the moment)