Miami Dolphins

Main question for Miami Dolphins: How to slow Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning shows his dismay during Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis Rams.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning shows his dismay during Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis Rams. AP

One of the Dolphins’ coordinators faced questions Monday about allegations of strained relationship with players.

The other faced queries about how to slow Peyton Manning, who will welcome the Dolphins to Denver on Sunday assuredly irritated by Sunday’s 22-7 loss to St. Louis, which represented the Broncos’ lowest point total in his 2 ½ seasons there.

Neither question had easy answers, but Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle offered insight into both.

Lazor said he “fought the temptation” to read NFL.com’s story last week that asserted he has a “rocky” and “strained” relationship with some players; that his “abrasive tenor has worn thin on some” and that Ryan Tannehill isn’t allowed to audible.

He dismissed the report about restrictions being placed on Tannehill.

“One of the things I think is special about Ryan is how he sees the field and can react to things that happen. Because he does that so well … Ryan has more options than a lot of quarterbacks we’ve coached,” Lazor said.

“We do certain things differently. Some of them are what you would call verbal audibles. Some are right at the snap. Some are built-in options ... Ryan has the ability to handle those things and does them very well. That’s one of his strengths. That’s probably when we’ve played our best offensively, when he’s used all those things.”

Asked if there has been any discontent between himself and the players, Lazor said: “I think it’s about what a normal NFL offensive team would be. I’ve had players tell me how much they appreciate the standards of expectations we’ve had. I’ve also had some players in a very professional way over time come up and say maybe this other approach might help us at times.”

The NFL.com report was based on players who requested anonymity.

“I don’t put a lot of credence on anonymous reports,” Lazor said. “I would like to think if the players were asked, they would say I’ve been professional. There have been very, very few times that curse words have come out of my mouth. But I am demanding of them. The greatest feedback I’ve gotten from our players in one-on-one settings is when they have told me how they much appreciate the expectations I have for the offense.”

Under Lazor’s direction, the Dolphins’ offense has improved to 16th in yards and 11th in points. But he said two things gnaw at him: lack of “explosive plays in the passing game and [trouble] finishing off those red zone drives with touchdowns.”

Against Denver of Sunday, “I would take a little less time of possession if it meant we were getting more explosive plays,” Lazor said.

The Broncos enter Sunday’s game ranked fifth in scoring and third in yards. But even though Manning threw for 389 yards against St. Louis, he also threw two interceptions (for the second time in three games) and the Broncos running game mustered just 28 yards on 10 carries.

Afterward, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said: “We did some things we hadn’t shown. You have to do that against Peyton.”

So does Coyle have some new things up his sleeve?

“I don’t know how many things Peyton hasn’t seen in the years he’s been playing,” Coyle said. “Whether it was Peyton or anybody else, you try to disguise things you’ve done in the past. That can only go so far in terms of the game plan. You have to execute the plan.”

Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin: “To think we’re going to have seven brand new coverages Peyton Manning has never seen before is not realistic.”

The Broncos could be short-handed Sunday, with injuries to tight end Julius Thomas (ankle), receiver Emmanuel Sanders (concussion-type symptoms) and running back Montee Ball (groin) leaving their status in question. Thomas has 12 touchdown receptions.

And Coyle said he’s not sure if cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle) will be able to suit up, though he said Jamar Taylor “played very well” as Finnegan’s replacement against Buffalo.

Coyle said in competing against Manning — who has 30 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and a 107.1 rating — “you have to mix up [schemes and coverages] because you don’t get to him very much. They have only had [12] takeaways the entire season, [10] picks and [two] fumbles. On top of that, they’ve only been sacked [an NFL-low] 11 times.

“On top of that, they are No. 1 in the league in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns at 77.5 percent. Schematically, they throw a lot of underneath routes, a lot of crossing routes, a lot of option routes. He gets them the ball and, if you aren’t right there, they are going to either break a tackle or turn it up the field. ... As a competitor, you love to play against these guys.”

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