Dolphins-Broncos: Miami Utilizes Immaturity to Frustrate and Beat Denver

Chaz MattsonAnalyst INovember 3, 2008

Joey Porter talks so much junk, trash, and garbage he ought to be in another line of work. The problem is the former CSU Ram linebacker has excelled in his current career, so much so he leads the league in kisses from his coaches past and present.  This isn’t your father’s NFL, like it or not, the game has changed and people like Joey Porter are the faces of the league.

Porter is a perfect fit for the trash-talking era. It’s not that intimidation and trash talking is anything new, it’s just that the number of trash talkers is probably at an all-time high, since there are no official statistics kept on the subject. 

At the top of the list however is Joey Porter. While Porter is the antithesis of Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger, he is sort of a proverbial NFL trash-talking version of the man. 

Joey Porter is usually undersized against everyone he faces, but he can be a lion and a cheetah on the football field. Meaning he can be both ferocious and fast while taking enough time out of his game to do a lot of talking in between plays or meals.

In the postgame interview session, Porter had these things to say, among others, regarding Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall.

“We put some good coverage’s on him.”

“I see you frustrated. I’m going to ride you all the way into the dirt.”

So, it’s with this swagger and attitude that the Miami Dolphins rolled into Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High. The Broncos were coming off one of their most embarrassing losses in at least a year at the New England Patriots, 41-7. 

Denver wanted a win prior to the bye; instead, they were humbled and forced to do some deeper team soul searching. Even with an upstart contender in Miami coming to town, the Broncos felt they should win at home against the fish.

In a theme that has been building over four of the last five games, it didn’t go quite the way the Broncos planned.  The Broncos lost yet another game to the Dolphins, 26-17.  The all-time record against Miami now stands at 11-3-1 in favor of the Dolphins.

What could be anticipated going into the game was that the Dolphins' defense would show up and be their usual self. The Dolphins have long had one of the most punishing defenses in the AFC, in spite of their woes. What was seen out of Denver prior to the break was a poor performance on offense and defense. 

It may not have been as easily anticipated that the Broncos would fall short offensively against Miami. The tempo of this game was set early, as in the first play and first series for Denver.

On the kickoff, the Broncos' returner dropped the opening kickoff in the end zone. He was fortunate it rolled and hit the back line after he touched it. On 3rd-and-10, Cutler threw an errant pass to Miami DB Jason Allen near the Denver 35-yard line. The Broncos were fortunate Miami could only muster a field goal.

Coming into the game, in spite of the recent woes, Jay Cutler was still rated second in total passing yards 1,862. Still, it was obvious early on Miami was working hard to disguise its coverages to confuse Cutler and the Broncos. The reality is the Dolphins did a lot of roll-coverages, utilizing robber techniques that caused Dolphin DB’s to start out covering a man, then morph into a zone-man double team. 

Ultimately, there are good, sound ways to beat these risky defenses. Ironically enough, the Broncos were stubborn in their approach to resolving the problems. Brandon Marshall was harassed and frustrated all day long, limiting his number of catches. Cutler had a number of dropped balls go against him and the Broncos early.

For the most part, the Broncos' defense stayed in check; they were physical with Miami and only gave up one big gain on the ground. A 30 yarder by Ronnie Brown, the smallest big gain the Broncos have given up thus far on the season. While a great deal had been made about Ronnie Brown running out of the wildcat formation, in the end, Denver contained the wildcat far better than any other team against Miami. 

After Miami built a 6-0 lead, Will Allen picked-off Jay Cutler on a roll coverage, when he initially covered Brandon Stokely and then rolled to double team on Brandon Marshall. The ball Jay threw had a lot of zip and was an offering Will Allen could not refuse, so he took it the distance for a Miami touchdown.

Eddie Royal took the ensuing kickoff right, where he stopped after going right, hit the brakes, changed gears and hit the jets to cutback left and he was off to the races. The run totalled 95 yards, down to the Miami 5. Eddie Royal then hooked up with Jay Cutler's pass for a Denver touchdown. 

Just like that, the score was 13-7. Prior to the half, Chad Pennington hooked up with TE Anthony Fasano for about a 20-yard gain that set up the Dolphins with time running out in the first half. 

Miami then reached the Denver five with less than 30 seconds in the half when a fumble recovered by the Broncos was negated. Replay showed Ronnie Brown’s knee had clearly touched the ground. After two unsuccessful attempts to score a touchdown, kicker Dan Carpenter split the uprights to put the score at 16-7 at halftime.

The Broncos' traditional run game was a liability against the aqua-clad defense. The offensive line and the running backs in orange and blue could only muster a total 14 yards on the ground. An amazing thought is that the Broncos were still able to amass 14 first downs without any run game.

In the third quarter, the Broncos stopped the Dolphins first drive, then drove to set up a Matt Prater field goal to narrow the margin to 16-10. The Broncos then had another drive to set up another Prater attempt, that pushed just left and was no good from 49 yards out. 

Karl Payma had an interception, courtesy of Pennington, which was a direct result of a bad throw and Payma finally playing man up. 

Near the end of the third quarter, Brandon Marshall finally caught his first pass on a slant from Cutler. He was being draped, hindered, and frustrated by the Dolphins all day long.

The very next play, the Broncos finally wised up and decided to go deep against the Miami defense, and it was like old times when Cutler connected with Marshall again for an apparent 77 yard touchdown. The referees threw a flag for offensive pass interference against Marshall for a push off. Replay showed the Miami DB, Jason Allen, initially contacted Marshall on his route twice after the snap and at least once after the five yards. 

Brandon then slightly extended his left hand and caught the pass. The problem here is the NFL really should redefine this rule based on which player makes initial contact. Of course that means the referees need to get the call right and the receiver has to be allowed to run the route and make the catch. Anything outside of that is pass interference; it was just called the wrong way on that play.  

At this point, it has become ridiculously intentional on the part of the NFL referees by the way they are targeting the Broncos as a team. In this game, the Broncos had 10 flags go against them, while Miami had two, and on one of those the referee waited for a hold to become short of a mugging before throwing the flag against the Dolphins. 

This is probably all related back to their controversial win against the Chargers early in the season based on a bad call. That, however, was not the Broncos' fault. It was the referees fault, just as this poor call on Marshall cost the Broncos an opportunity to win the game. Say what you will, the refereeing has been extremely poor and over the top in the Broncos' games since that early season matchup.

Miami then responded with a drive that set up a 41-yard field goal to put the lead to nine to start the fourth quarter. The Broncos then responded with a three-play drive to score a touchdown. The key play of the drive come on first down and resulted in a 47-yard toss and run to FB Peyton Hillis.

Two plays later, Brandon Marshall was interfered with in the end zone to set up another short Hillis grab from Cutler for the touchdown. The score was now 19-17, and oh how the Brandon Marshall penalty on his TD grab was haunting the Broncos.    

Late in the game, the Broncos could not stop Miami from chewing clock and eventually scoring a touchdown to ice the game. The score was set up when D.J. Williams' replacement after his injury, Louis Green, was covering Ricky Williams down the sidelines. Strangely enough, Williams used his arms to create separation from Green and caught a 23-yard pass down to the two to set up a short Ronnie Brown TD run.   

This, tag-teamed with the inabilities of Jay Cutler and the offense to consistently get the job done, caused people on both sides of the locker room to start pointing fingers at the other side. The offense is upset with the defense, and the defense is upset with the offense.

And it boiled over into some of the postgame comments from Brandon Marshall, among others. These are things that will be reviewed for the days and weeks to come, but for now, the Broncos are still a young team, in first place, as a team in turmoil. 

The Broncos are fighting themselves and the refereeing as much as the other teams they face. It’s a clear sign of immaturity and frustration that will subside once the Broncos get back on track; for now, it’s a tough time that could make them all a better team in the long run. 

The Broncos are showing they still have much to learn and room to grow. The hardest thing to keep in mind is what a young team they really are and that their character is being called to task.

The Dolphins won, but they still have these same types of issues as a younger team on their way up. The weaker character issues just get covered over with a win. Oh, and Joey Porter, he’s still talking and laughing it up at the expense of Brandon Marshall and the Denver Broncos.