With 10 minutes left in the Denver Broncos’ game against the Miami Dolphins, a Trevor Siemian pass was tipped at the line and into the hands of cornerback Xavien Howard. On the next play, Jay Cutler found Kenny Stills wide open in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown. Miami took a 33-9 lead.
Less than two minutes later, after the Denver defense forced a three-and-out, Isaiah McKenzie fielded a punt at his own one-yard line. He bounced around the coverage unit, looking for a crease, before being stripped by Chase Allen. McKenzie recovered the fumble in the end zone for Denver’s second safety of the game. That pretty much summed up the day for the increasingly awful Broncos.
Denver’s 35-9 loss to the Dolphins extended their losing streak to eight games and ended Miami’s at five. As was the case in their first seven losses, the Broncos couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot.
Sunday’s game against the Dolphins started well for Denver. The defense forced a punt, Isaiah McKenzie caught the punt and the Broncos were moving the ball downfield on their first drive. Then, nine minutes into the game, Trevor Siemian threw a ball to Emmanuel Sanders in the middle of the field that was tipped and intercepted by T.J. McDonald.
Denver’s defense did their best to cover for the mistake, forcing a three-and-out, but the field position was flipped and Miami’s punt pinned the Broncos inside their own 10. Four plays later, Matt Paradis snapped the ball over Siemian’s head and the second-year starter knocked the ball out of the end zone for a safety.
The Broncos played the same way they’ve played all season. The offense was inefficient and couldn’t stop turning the ball over. The special teams were responsible for a safety, had a punt blocked and didn’t convert a surprise onside kick. And the defense was good, outside of a couple of big plays.
Trevor Siemian played, arguably, the worst game of his career. He threw the ball 41 times, completing 19 passes, for 215 yards and three interceptions. One of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown. He lacked the confidence to give his receivers chances to make plays down the field on deep balls and he missed most of his short and intermediate routes, sometimes by wide margins. He also threw into tight coverage frequently.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for four catches and 38 yards. C.J. Anderson led the Broncos in receiving with four catches for 43 yards.
Denver’s running game was fairly hot early in the game but faded later. C.J. Anderson got a bulk of the carries, running the ball four times for 43 yards. Jamaal Charles contributed more in the passing game than the running game and totaled 51 yards on eight touches. Devontae Booker only had three touches in the game because he was battling the flu.
Defensively, the Broncos weren’t bad. They forced three turnovers, including interceptions by Chris Harris Jr. and Justin Simmons. Harris Jr. made a great play in tight man coverage deep downfield to break up a pass and catch the ball after it was tipped. Simmons caught a tipped ball across the middle and returned it for a touchdown.
Bradley Roby played well in place of Aqib Talib who was serving a suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct against the Raiders last week. Roby was glued to his man for most of the game and broke up three passes.
Jay Cutler was solid at quarterback for the Dolphins, completing 18 of 31 passes for 235 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns. Kenny Stills caught five of the passes and one of the touchdowns and totaled 98 yards. Kenyan Drake paced the Dolphins’ ground game with 120 yards on 23 attempts.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Xavien Howard picked off Trevor Siemian twice. The first was a pick-six giving the Dolphins a 19-9 lead in the middle of the third quarter. The second came after Miami had extended their lead to 26-9, early in the fourth quarter. Howard set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Kenny Stills, which extended Miami’s lead to 33-9.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Broncos were down 9-3 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, with the ball at their own 25. On the first play of the drive, Demaryius Thomas ran an out route 10 yards downfield and Trevor Siemian threw the ball behind him. Xavien Howard jumped the route and ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. 16-3 Miami.
Siemian’s first interception of the game was thrown across the middle and tipped into the defense’s hands. It wasn’t a good decision to throw into tight coverage, but the interception wasn’t entirely Siemian’s fault. His second interception was. With a better pass, Thomas would have had plenty of space to make the catch and get his feet down in bounds. Siemian’s mistake left Denver with the type of deficit they’ve proven themselves incapable of coming back from.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
“We have to damn near play perfect to win a game.” -Chris Harris Jr.
BY THE NUMBERS
8% -Denver’s third-down conversion rate in Miami
30.5 -Trevor Siemian’s passer rating, a new career low
6– Fumbles by Isaiah McKenzie this season
The only tangible impact from this game is how it affects the draft order. The NFL’s draft order is determined by record (worst teams pick first) and the tiebreaker is strength of schedule (teams with easier schedules, based on opponents’ results this season, pick earlier).
The Broncos came into Sunday’s game in position to make the fourth pick in the 2018 draft. Their loss kept them on pace with the worst teams in the league, and if the Giants (2-9) can steal a win in Oakland this afternoon, Denver would move into the top three. San Francisco’s (2-10) win over Chicago makes the 49ers a candidate to be overtaken next week, with a San Francisco win and Denver loss.
New York Jets (4-7), 2:05 p.m. MST, Sunday, December 10; CBS