By Rich Kurtzman
Each and every Sunday, the Denver Broncos face the opponent’s best game. Take last week’s loss in St. Louis to the Rams, with the home team celebrating after nearly every play, be it big or small. And take the blueprint they’ve laid out, and it’s easy to see how to rattle Denver’s offense.
Rush Peyton Manning by getting through that ragtag unit they call an offensive line. St. Louis relentlessly put pressure on Manning, disallowing him to step into throws and forcing him to throw early, as well. The result was this: Manning was off, missing open receivers and forcing two passes into covered men, turning into two interceptions.
The problem for Denver is they face three of the best pass-rushing teams in a row, in the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. This week it’s Miami, who may have the best defense all-around of the three.
Miami’s 30 sacks are tied for third-best in the NFL, with left defensive end Cameron Wake on pace to set career bests, with 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles already. Wake will likely be going against Louis Vasquez, who was moved out to right tackle in the wake of poor play by Chris Clark and an injury to backup Paul Cornick. Vasquez was an All-Pro at right guard last year and played well at that spot to start this season, but he’s notably struggled a bit at tackle, so the matchup is one to watch. On the other side of the line, Olivier Vernon has a second-best 5.5 sacks, so Manning will have to watch out for both ends.
A somewhat shocking statistic: In Miami’s six wins, they’ve allowed a mere 11.7 points per game. Denver is coming off their worst offensive performance in years, putting up only one touchdown for a paltry seven points against St. Louis. This will be strength versus strength, if the Broncos can regain their offensive magic.
Miami isn’t just a one-sided team, either. Their offense has improved this year, thanks to the growth of young quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill is enjoying a career year, completing 65.4 percent of passes while throwing 17 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions. His 92.2 passer rating is a personal best as well. Receiver Mike Wallace is his favorite target, and he leads the team with 44 receptions for 557 yards and six scores. Rookie Jarvis Landry is enjoying a breakout season, too, with 42 catches for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Plus, he’s a strong return man on both punts and kickoffs.
And when they run the ball, Lamar Miller has capably carried the load. His 4.9 yards per rush average are among the best in the league and he knows how to finish runs for scores. Miller’s scored five touchdowns on the ground and another through the air, as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield as well.
Yes, these aren’t just your average Dolphins, the team that has been bad for multiple years. These Dolphins are a solid team, both on offense and defense, and they’ll present a definite test for a Broncos team that is reeling a bit after losing to the Rams.
[display-posts category=”broncos” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”10″]
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.