Denver offensive line vs. Dolphins front seven
Who won: Denver.
The impact: Peyton Manning threw the ball 35 times. He took one sack, falling down when a third-and-1 pass wasn’t open. It was a gift from Manning’s advanced age rather than a prize for achievement in pass rush. What made that third down call seem strange was the way Denver moved the Dolphins aside in the running game. The Broncos officially rushed for 201 yards on 35 carries. It was 203 yards on 33 (6.15 per carry) if you don’t count the two Manning kneel downs as Denver ran out the clock.
Dolphins pass coverage vs. Denver’s Sanders
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Who won: Denver.
The impact: Sanders, who just cleared the NFL’s concussion protocols Saturday, caught nine passes for 125 yards as well as a two-point conversion pass. It could have been worse. Manning overthrew a wide open Sanders deep at least three times. One of those times, on a third-and-20, Sanders sold Jamar Taylor on a short route then zoomed past deep and saved Manning with a leaping catch for 30 yards. It led to the touchdown that got Denver to within four at halftime, 21-17.
Dolphins offensive line vs. Denver’s pass rush
Who won: Dolphins.
The impact: Weren’t Denver defensive ends Von Miller and Demarcus Ware supposed to lead a charge that would have the Dolphins offensive line flailing and wailing in vain as the Broncos repeatedly sacked Ryan Tannehill? Tannehill took only one sack and got hurried officially four other times. This despite the Dolphins losing offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James in the second quarter. Tackle Dallas Thomas, among others, seemed to handle Miller well enough most of the game. Tannehill’s former Texas A&M teammate ended with one tackle.