Dolphins’ defense sends Broncos to 8th straight loss
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- One losing streak came to an end and another kept on growing at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
Miami’s swarming defense ensured the Dolphins were on the better end of that scenario.
Miami’s defenders held Denver out of the end zone and scored twice to lift the Dolphins to a 35-9 win over the Broncos.
Miami (5-7) snapped a five-game losing streak that dated back to Oct. 22 in a 31-28 home win over the New York Jets.
Denver (3-9) dropped its eighth straight contest and hasn’t been victorious since a 16-10 home win over Oakland on Oct. 1.
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said his defense played better as the game went on and Miami increased its lead, partially in part to a pair of defensive scores on a safety and an interception return.
“I think it changes a lot,” Gase said. “We were able to turn those four pass rushers loose. It makes a big difference. Puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They get back there quick.”
Miami opened the scoring by recording a safety with 3:07 left in the first quarter on a high snap that Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian failed to catch while positioned in the end zone. Siemian tossed the ball beyond the end line to give the Dolphins a 2-0 lead.
Brandon McManus gave Denver a 3-2 advantage with a 31-yard field goal at 13:28 of the second quarter.
Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, who finished 18 of 31 for 235 yards with two touchdowns, lobbed a 9-yard scoring pass to tight end Julius Thomas to regain the lead at 9:39.
Miami quickly extended its advantage on the next play from scrimmage.
Cornerback Xavien Howard stepped in front of Siemian’s pass on a quick out and scampered 29 yards for a score seven seconds later.
Howard intercepted Siemian again in the fourth quarter to set up Miami’s final touchdown. T.J. McDonald also had an interception.
“Well, you know, it was a back and forth game for about a quarter. In the second quarter we gave up 14 points in four seconds,” said Denver head coach Vance Joseph, who was Miami’s defensive coordinator last season.
“They had a long drive on our defense and a pick-six. That all happened in four seconds. Now we’re down by two scores again and now it looks like every other week.”
Cody Parkey added a 37-yard field goal at 10:32 of the third quarter to extend Miami’s lead to 19-3.
Denver’s Justin Simmons intercepted Cutler -- making his first start after missing one game because of a concussion -- and returned the pick 65 yards to make it 19-9 at 4:56 of the third quarter.
Making just his third NFL start and playing in place of injured Damien Williams, Miami’s Kenyan Drake rushed for a game-high 120 yards on 23 carries.
The former Alabama running back broke off a 42-yard touchdown run at 2:54 of the third quarter for a 26-9 lead.
“I had the easy part; I was just running through big holes trying to make the most of every play. At the end of the day, I can’t do nothing but thank the game plan and the coaches and everybody else,” said Drake, whose single-game high in carries in college for the Crimson Tide was just 14.
Cutler completed 18-of-31 attempts for 235 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his return from a concussion.
Kenny Stills caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Cutler at 10:21 of the fourth quarter.
Miami’s special teams added a second safety when Denver punt returner Isaiah McKenzie lost control of the ball while reversing field, recovered his own fumble in the end zone and was tackled with 9:03 remaining.
Siemian was 19 of 41 for 200 yards and three interceptions.
”We didn’t get off to a good start. From there on, we had no rhythm. From the start really past that one drive we didn’t have anything going,“ Siemian said.”
NOTES: Denver QB Paxton Lynch (ankle), G Ron Leary (back), DE Derek Wolfe and NT Domata Peko Sr. (knee) were made inactive. Peko’s injury ended his 123-game starting streak. ... CB Aqib Talib missed the game due to his suspension for an altercation with Oakland WR Michael Crabtree last Sunday. The two were both originally suspended two games without pay for violations of unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness, but saw a reduction to one game. ... Miami made QB Matt Moore (foot), RB Damien Williams (shoulder) and G Jermon Bushrod (foot) inactive. ... Ndamukong Suh made his 95th consecutive start after missing practice Friday. His streak is the NFL’s longest among defensive tackles, breaking the record Peko held until missing Sunday’s game. ... Miami paid tribute to six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor with a pre-game introduction and graphics around the stadium. Taylor, who was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, addressed the crowd at halftime and received his Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence.