The Miami Dolphins are approaching the home stretch of the 2014 season and the team is in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Dolphins have won five of their past seven games, with the two losses both coming in the final minute against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. This is the best that Miami has played during head coach Joe Philbin's three seasons in South Florida, and it's no coincidence as the team is full of talent on both sides of the ball and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has begun emerging as a possible long-term answer at the position.
This week the Dolphins (6-4) will hit the road to face one of the best teams in the NFL, the Denver Broncos. Denver (7-3) has lost only two regular season home games since Peyton Manning took over as their quarterback in 2012, going 19-2 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High during that span. Miami may be catching the Broncos at the right time though, with Denver having several key players dealing with various injuries. Combine that with a struggling Broncos offensive line and the Dolphins have a great opportunity to get out of Denver with a huge win. With that in mind, here are the keys to a Dolphins victory over the Broncos on Sunday.
Protect Ryan Tannehill
For the third straight week the Dolphins will face one of the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL. Defensive ends Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have teamed up to become one of the most lethal defensive duo's in the league and will provide the Dolphins offensive line with a real test. Tannehill has been sacked 15 times during Miami's last five games, but the Dolphins may be getting starting guard Daryn Colledge back in the lineup on Sunday. Colledge has missed Miami's last three games while dealing with a back injury.
Tackle Well On Defense
One of the biggest ways that the Broncos have been able to hurt teams on offense is with yards after contact. Denver's playmakers are great at making plays after the catch, with strong and speedy pass catchers like Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas. If Miami can keep the Broncos offense in front of them and limit what they do with the ball in their hands, it will go a long way towards keeping Peyton Manning and co. off the scoreboard.
Pressure Peyton Manning
Manning has been the most difficult quarterback to sack in the NFL so far this season. The Dolphins have the third most sacks in the league, putting the opposing quarterback on the turf 30 times this season. Something's gotta give, right? Even if Miami can't sack Manning, getting pressure on the veteran quarterback and limiting his movements inside the pocket will go a long way. Since his neck injury in 2011, Manning has had to rely on his footwork a lot more to get the ball down the field. If the Dolphins can get in Manning's face and not allow him to step into throws, they will take away a huge part of the Broncos offensive game.
Keep The Offense On The Field
One of the things that the Dolphins have done very well during their stretch of strong games is control the clock. The positive things about Miami's lack of big plays is that it allows the offense to engineer long, time consuming drives that not only lead to points, but limits their opponents' opportunities to score. The more that the Dolphins can keep the ball in Ryan Tannehill's hands and out of Peyton Manning's, the better.
Make Denver's Offense One-Dimensional
We know that the Broncos can move the ball through the air. They have one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game and some of the most talented pass catchers in the league. One thing that Denver is currently lacking however is a running game. The Broncos top two running backs, Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot), are both expected to miss Sunday's game. Denver doesn't run much to begin with, ranking 26th in the league with 24.3 rushing attempts per game, 25th in yards per carry (3.7 ypc) and 27th in total rushing yards with 899 on the season. Meanwhile, the Dolphins boast one of the better run defenses in the league, ranking 8th in yards per game (94.5 ypg) and 7th in yards per carry (3.83 ypc). The more Miami can force the Broncos to stay away from the run, the more they can key in on stopping Peyton Manning.
Watch Miami take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday at 4 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
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