The Dolphins took their show on the road to Denver yesterday and when
the fat lady had sung and the curtain had come down, the Dolphins were
left the victors in a 24-22 thriller that featured everything but the
Olindo Mare' played the part of the fat lady in this production,
hitting a 53 yard field goal with 6 seconds remaining to win the game,
but he was hardly the only player on this stage as nearly every player
on both sides of the ball contributed to this stunning Miami victory.
The game began at 8:30 PM EDT, which was 6:30 PM local time in
Denver, meaning there was a little bit of natural light left at
kickoff. The temperature at kickoff was a balmy 58 degrees F, with 31%
humidity and clear skies. Winds were from the SW at 3 mph. In other
words, the weather was beautiful and not a factor in this game.
The Dolphins had Marcus Spriggs starting for Mark Dixon at left
tackle, but otherwise were at full strength at the start of the game.
The Broncos had their complete starting lineup.
Before I begin, let me make my excuses now. So much happened
during the course of this game, that it would be impossible to
accurately "summarize" everything that went on. If you didn't see the
game, I advise you to beg, borrow or steal a video of the game and
watch it yourself. That will be the only way to really see everything
And no, I don't have an extra copy of the game.
During the first half, the script was pretty consistent.
Denver was able to drive down the field on short passes to their
receivers and running backs and some running by Clinton Portis. They
couldn't break any big plays, but were moving the ball steadily.
However, each time they would get deep into Miami territory,
either Miami's defense would come up with a big play to stop them or
the Broncos would self-destruct short of the endzone. As a result,
Denver ended 5 drives in Miami territory in the first half - 3 inside
Miami's 20 - but ended the first half with only 3 field goals for 9
Miami's strategy on defense in this game was to stop the run and
force the Broncos to beat them through the air. The did a pretty good
job stopping the run and pressuring Brian Griese with the defensive
line. While Denver's receivers caught a lot of passes, they were mostly
short completions and the Broncos' receivers paid for every yard.
Miami's defense forced the Broncos' offense to play mistake free
football on every play to pick up yardage. They also mixed in blitzes
in selected situations that helped keep the Broncos guessing. Miami
did get burned on one blitz, when Griese hit fullback Mike Anderson
with a screen pass for a 52 yard gain down to the Miami 2.
In the first quarter, Miami's offense was completely ineffective,
going 3 and out twice, because the Denver defense was stuffing Ricky
Williams at the line of scrimmage and Norv Turner seemed unwilling to
call any other plays.
In the second quarter, the Dolphins had a 76 yard drive for a
touchdown, mainly on the strength of two Oronde Gadsden receptions and
two nice runs by Ricky Williams down near the goal line for a total of
16 yards. The touchdown itself was a 10 yard run by Ricky between Todd
Wade and Todd Perry, on one of the few really good blocking jobs that
Miami's offensive line did all night.
Miami's offensive strategy seemed to be to run Ricky Williams no
matter what the Broncos were able to do and it did finally pay off on
the first touchdown drive, but was largely ineffective throughout the
Turnovers were a major part of the first half. Following
Anderson's 52 yard screen pass to Miami's one, Anderson fumbled on a
run up the middle and Miami recovered, thwarting a potential touchdown
Miami returned the favor when Jay Fiedler threw an interception
from the Denver 30 yard line after having driven 69 yards from the
Miami 1 on a drive that would have put Miami ahead for the first time
in the game, if they had scored even a field goal.
The final play of the first half was a microcosm of Denver's
problems in the first half. They had driven to Miami's 30 and on the
final play of the half, it appeared that Jason Elam had made a 49 yard
field goal. However, the field goal was nullified by a holding penalty
against the Broncos' Blake Brockermeyer. And since it was the last
play of the half, the Broncos were not allowed to retry the kick.
Sidebar: The most controversial play of the first half occurred
when Chris Chambers made a leaping catch on a slant pass in the 2nd
quarter. At the catch, Broncos' safety Kenoy Kennedy speared Chris
Chambers in the chin with his helmet, knocking Chambers to the ground
and dislodging the ball.
Chambers lay on the ground for several minutes as the Dolphins'
trainers worked on him and he was eventually helped off the field with
a concussion. He did not return to the game.
Replay showed that Kennedy clearly hit Chambers right in the chin
with the top of his helmet, spearing him and knocking him down. While
I believe that Kennedy did not mean to really hurt Chambers, I also
believe that he deliberately thrust the top of his helmet at Chambers
in a way that is too dangerous to be tolerated. I do not believe that
what happened was just an accident. End of sidebar.
Overall, the Broncos outplayed the Dolphins in the first half, but
several big plays by Miami and a couple of mistakes by Denver kept the
game well with reach for the Dolphins. At halftime, the score was 9-7
in favor of the Broncos.
At the beginning of the third quarter, the Dolphins started by
turning over the ball on a fumble when Trevor Pryce got around Todd
Wade and sacked Jay Fiedler. The Broncos responded by throwing what
initially appeared to be an interception in the endzone, but replay
showed that Sam Madison had not quite gotten control of the ball as he
came down, so Denver kept the ball at the Miami 22.
However, Denver couldn't do anything with it and ended up kicking
yet another field goal for a 12-7 lead.
The rest of the third quarter was a back and forth series of short
drives that resulted in nothing for either team. The Miami defensive
line really asserted itself in the third quarter, sacking Griese twice
and keeping constant pressure on him. The Broncos defense continued to
hold Miami's offense in check, stuffing Ricky and containing the
The game didn't really change its tone significantly until the
beginning of the 4th quarter, when Sam Madison won a shoving match with
Rod Smith and Smith slipped and fell. Unfortunately for Denver, Griese
had already thrown the ball in Smith's direction and Madison had an
easy interception that he returned to the Miami 48.
The Dolphins then put together their 2nd touchdown drive of the game,
culminating in a 2 yard run over the right side by Ricky Williams to
give Miami it's first lead with the score of 14-12. On this drive,
there was a particularly impressive reverse by James McKnight who
showed speed and drive in breaking a couple of tackles for a 16 yard
Now leading for the first time, the Dolphins got another big play
from their defense when Patrick Surtain picked off a Brian Griese pass
and returned it for a touchdown on the Broncos' very next series.
Griese was under pressure from Jason Taylor and Surtain watched him all
the way, picking off the pass and returning it up the right side for
Suddenly, in the space of a minute and a half, Miami had gone from
5 points down to a 9 point lead with 8:13 left to play. But the game
was far from over.
The Broncos started their next drive at their 20 after the kickoff,
and using short passes, began driving the length of the field. They
managed to convert a 3rd and 15 with a screen to Clinton Portis for 21
yards and Griese showed poise and determination in the pocket. This
time, instead of committing a drive-stopping error, they were aided by
two Dolphins' penalties that eventually gave the Broncos a first and
goal at the Miami 1. From there, it was just a short pass to Mike
Anderson for a touchdown.
This score cut the Dolphins' lead to 21-19 with 3:30 left to play.
The Dolphins' task on the ensuing drive was to run the clock out, but
even though Miami did manage to convert 2 first downs, the Broncos
defense rose up and sacked Jay Fiedler on 3rd and 2 when Trevor Pryce
was not fooled by a quarterback bootleg that Fiedler tried to run.
This drive did force Denver to use all its timeouts and when
Denver got the ball back on a punt with 1:51 remaining, they had no
timeouts remaining. Denver went back to work from it's own 20 and ran
Clinton Portis out of bounds after 10 yards. They got 5 more yards on
a penalty and then the Broncos' rookie Ashley Lelie got behind Patrick
Surtain down the sideline as Surtain was looking in the Broncos'
backfield instead of at the receiver. Griese hit Lelie for 30 yards
to the Miami 35, which was within Jason Elams' range.
The Dolphins' defense stiffened at this point, dropping Clinton
Portis for a 2 yard loss and pressuring Griese into 2 incompletions.
Now, faced with a 4th and 12 at the Miami 37, the Broncos trotted out
Jason Elam for a 55 yard field goal attempt. The ball sailed to the
right, but curved back just inside the upright and just over the
crossbar to give the Broncos 3 points and a 22-21 lead.
However, the Broncos had made a tactical mistake by not running
more time off the clock. Miami got the ball back after the kickoff at
their own 21 with 40 seconds showing on the clock and 2 timeouts
Unbeknownst to the fans, Jay Fiedler trotted on to the field to
lead the offense with a broken right (throwing hand) thumb. He had hit
his hand on a helmet in a previous series and his task was now to put
the Dolphins into field goal range (about 45 yards downfield) with a
On his first throw, Randy McMichael dropped the ball about 8 yards
downfield in the left flat. The next play, Fiedler missed Dedric Ward
and the Dolphins were suddenly faced with a 3rd and 10 with 29 seconds
remaining in the game.
From the shotgun, Fiedler dropped back to pass, but was forced to
scramble. Randy McMichael had crossed the field and was coming back
towards Fiedler, when Fiedler threw behind him. McMichael reached back
behind himself and snagged the ball out of the air 17 yards downfield
at the Miami 43. Miami then called their first timeout.
On the next play, now with 20 seconds remaining, Fiedler threw 20
yards downfield towards Dedric Ward, who had turned back between
defenders at the Broncos' 35. Between Ward and Fiedler, Broncos'
linebacker John Mobley leaped towards the pass and got both hands on
the ball, but was unable to hold on. The ball squirted threw Mobley's
hands and fluttered into the chest of Ward, who had the presence of
mind to hold on to the ball at the Denver 35. With 11 seconds
on the clock, Miami called their last timeout and sent in Olindo Mare'.
Mare', who has had some trouble this year, hit one of the best kicks
he's ever made, angling towards the middle of the field and clearing
the crossbar with at least 15 feet of clearance. The kick probably
would have been good from 70 yards away and it gave Miami a 24-22 lead
with just 6 seconds left.
Just 44 seconds earlier, the Denver sideline and fans had exploded
with joy when Jason Elam hit his 55 yard kick. Now, the entire stadium
was silent, except for the Miami bench, which was jumping with their
The Dolphins did kick off once more and the ball sailed into the
endzone for a touchback. Griese threw a short pass from the 20 to Rod
Smith and the Broncos attempted to lateral, but Miami's defense made a
quick tackle and the game was over.
It was as exciting a game as I've ever seen. It was an outstanding
performance by both teams and the biggest disappointment was that only
one team could win the game because both teams played their hearts out.
There were so many big plays in this game, it's hard to pick out a
limited number to focus on, but here are 4 - one from each quarter -
that made a difference:
- In the first quarter, on first and 10 from the Dolphins'
35, Griese drops back to pass, but Jason Taylor gets around Ephraim
Salaam and sacks Brian Griese for a 17 yard loss. Result: this sack
stops the Broncos' second scoring drive and while the Broncos do get a
field goal, it keeps the game within reach of the Dolphins.
- After a 52 yard screen pass catches the Dolphins in a blitz
and gives the Broncos a first and goal on the Dolphins' 2, the Broncos
run Mike Anderson up the middle twice. The first time, he's stopped
short of the goal line, but on the second carry, Jason Taylor knocks
the ball out of Anderson's hands and Larry Chester recovers. Result:
The Dolphins kill another Bronco's scoring opportunity and keep the
game within reach.
- On the second play of the third quarter, Jay Fiedler drops
back to pass but Trevor Pryce gets around Todd Wade, knocks the ball
out of Fiedler's hands and falls on the fumble. Result: The Broncos
get an easy 3 points on a field goal.
- With 20 seconds remaining in the game, Jay Fiedler throws a
pass to his left, aiming for Dedric Ward at the Bronco's 35. John
Mobley jumps and gets his hands on the ball, but can't hold on and the
ball lands in Dedric Ward's chest. Result: Miami makes the game
winning field goal. If Mobley hangs on to the ball, the game is over
and Denver wins instead.
The most important thing the Dolphins did on Sunday was to
play a complete 60 minutes of football. They worked hard from
beginning to end and never quit and it paid off with a victory, even
when it appeared that they were beaten on Elam's 55 yard field goal.
The offense did not have an especially productive game
overall, but they made plays when it counted the most. They did
convert 45% of their third downs, which is very good, especially
considering the opponent.
The running game was shut down for the most part, but both
Dolphins' offensive touchdowns came on runs by Ricky Williams, one for
10 yards, behind the right side of the Dolphins' offensive line.
The passing game was inconsistent, but considering that the
team was without Chris Chambers for much of the game, they did a good
The Dolphins also scored a touchdown on each trip into the red
zone, which turned out to be a key aspect of the their victory. One
of the reasons the Broncos lost was that they only managed to convert
25% of their trips into the red zone into touchdowns.
The other side of that coin is the fact that the defense did
an excellent job in the redzone, keeping Denver from scoring
touchdowns and limiting them to field goals. The Dolphin defense was
especially effective along the line, with Jason Taylor and the rest of
the defensive line closing holes and applying constant pressure on
Brian Griese. The result was 3 (almost 4) turnovers, which would
prove to be very important.
When the Dolphins did get interceptions, they made the most of
them. Both interceptions resulted in touchdowns for the Dolphins.
The defense did give up a lot of yards, but did a good job
limiting the Broncos to mostly short gains. The Broncos only broke
one really big play and it turned out to be harmless.
On special teams, Olindo did miss one 48 yard field goal, but
made up for it with the game winner. The coverage was pretty good,
overall and the return game with Travis Minor and Dedric Ward worked
well this week.
THINGS TO WORK ON:
The offensive line got pushed around pretty severely, and
while the Denver defensive line is one of the best in the league, the
offensive line of the Dolphins needs to be able to deal with good
defensive lines if Miami is to be considered one of the best teams in
The play calling by Norv Turner seemed to be a little too
conservative early in the game. While I applaud the dedication to
Ricky's running, a little more variation in the playcalling early in
the game might have scored some more points.
The turnovers were a problem, with Jay Fiedler throwing one
ill-advised interception and Todd Wade giving up a sack that resulted
in another turnover.
Also, the Dolphins had 8 penalties for 42 yards, including 2
defensive penalties on the Broncos' only touchdown drive. They need
to cut down those costly penalties.
As always, Jay Fiedler is the subject of both praise and
condemnation from the fans. Personally, I thought he had an excellent
game completing 19 of 29 passes for 192 yards while under serious
pressure from the Denver defense. He deserves special credit for
leading the game-winning drive with a broken thumb.
Ricky Williams was held to 49 yards on 20 carries for a 2.5
ypc average while rushing the ball and caught 4 passes for 30 yards.
Despite the low rushing average, he did score two rushing touchdowns
and forced the Broncos to key on him. Given the lack of offensive
line blocking for most of the game, he did a very good job.
Robert Edwards did a good job as a blocker, picking up the
blitzes, but only carried the ball once for 2 yards and caught 1 pass
for -2 yards.
Rob Konrad caught 2 passes for 13 yards, but was not a big
factor in this game. He tried to block for Ricky, but was only
Oronde Gadsden lead all Dolphins' receivers with 5 catches for
77 yards, including several on Miami's touchdown drives. Unlike past
weeks, he didn't drop any easy passes.
Randy McMichael had a mixed game. He dropped at least 2 easy
catches, but made a beautiful grab behind him on the game winning
drive. Overall, he had 5 catches for 62 yards.
Dedric Ward caught just 2 passes for 30 yards, but one was on
the deflected ball on the final drive that set up Mare's game winning
field goal. He also returned two punts for a total of 47 yards, which
is an excellent average.
James McKnight replaced Chris Chambers and ended up with no
catches. But he did pick up 16 yards on Miami's 2nd touchdown drive
on a reverse, where he was forced to break a couple of tackles to get
the yardage. He seems to be a powerful runner for his size and he's
The offensive line did not have a particularly good game.
Todd Perry, Todd Wade and Tim Ruddy all seemed to have problems
dealng with Denver's defensive linemen. In particular, Todd Wade was
abused by Trevor Pryce for most of the game.
On defense, Zach Thomas had a terrific game, showing up all
over the field and ending the game with 12 tackles. He was
especially impressive in the first half.
Right behind Zach was Brock Marion, who turned in 9 tackles of
his own. He helped a lot in run support, but was called for pass
interference in the endzone late in the game.
Patrick Surtain had an outstanding game, collecting 8 tackles,
knocking down one pass and returning an interception for a touchdown.
Jason Taylor was in Brian Griese's face all night, running
circles around Denver's offensive tackles and applying consistent
pressure. He had 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 passes knocked down and one
forced fumble, which was recovered by Larry Chester. He was a one man
Sam Madison was credited with 5 tackles, intercepted one pass
that set up a touchdown and almost intercepted another in the
endzone. As a pair, Madison and Surtain are the best cornerback duo
in the NFL.
Derrick Rodgers had 3 tackles and did a good job controling
the run and covering receivers out of the backfield.
Arturo Freeman had a very good night, knocking down a pass and
delivering some impressive hits. He ended the night with 3 tackles.
Morlon Greenwood also had a solid outing, registering 3
tackles, including one tackle of Clinton Portis for a 2 yard loss on
the Broncos' final drive.
Jamar Fletcher was not burned for any big plays in this game,
for a change. He made two solo tackles.
Adewale Ogunleye contributed to the pressure on Griese with 2
tackls and a sack in the 3rd quarter.
Jay Williams also had two solo tackles in the defensive line
David Bowens did play in this game, even though he was listed
as doubtful going into the game. He had 1 solo tackle during regular
play and 1 special teams tackle, but also had a roughing the passer
penalty late in the game.
Rob Burnett was also in the defensive line rotation and picked
up one solo tackle.
Shawn Wooden came in on nickel situations and had one assist.
Larry Chester was not credited with any tackles this week, but
did knock down one pass and recovered Mike Anderson's goal line
fumble. He, Tim Bowens and Jermaine Haley did a good job of plugging
the line against the Broncos.
Tommy Hendricks came in on goal line situations and
contributed two special teams tackles.
Ray Green continues to play well on special teams and had 2
special teams tackles against the Broncos.
Trent Gamble also had 1 special teams tackle.
Scott Galyon played on special teams and downed one of Royal's
punts at the Denver 1 yard line.
Mark Royals did a pretty good job for the most part, making
some nice directional kicks and placing the ball well. He averaged
41.2 yards per punt. However, he shanked one punt for 13 yards.
Travis Minor returned kickoffs for the Dolphins, averaging
30.7 yards per return, mostly because of one very nice return for 66
And, of course, there's Olindo Mare'. He missed a 48 yard
field goal early in the game, but redeemed himself on his final kick.
Jay Fiedler broke his thumb in the 4th quarter. He reportedly
had surgery on Monday on the thumb and could be out anywhere from 4 to
8 weeks, depending on who's calling the shots.
Other injured players were WR Oronde Gadsden (left-wrist
sprain), LB Morlon Greenwood (right-quadriceps strain), WR James
McKnight (bruised back), Jason Taylor (left-elbow hyperextension) and
WR Chris Chambers (concussion).
At present, Chambers could miss the Buffalo game, but we won't
know until later in the week.
The problem with games as terrific as this one was, is that
someone has to lose. Both the Broncos and the Dolphins worked so
hard and played so well that they both really deserved to win.
Unfortunately, one team has to lose. In this game, it was the
But it could just as easily gone the other way. There were a
number of points in the game where one play could have changed the
outcome and Miami was not only good, but lucky on Sunday.
The hitting was ferocious in this game. I don't think I've
ever seen so many bone-crunching hits as I saw in this game on Sunday
night. It was amazing.
In the past, the Dolphins have often been known as a "finesse"
team. I think that the game Sunday night has put that idea to rest,
at least for the rest of this season.
Overall, it was a terrific win for the Dolphins, but it came
at a price. With Jay Fiedler out this week, Ray Lucas will be
starting on Sunday and we'll all finally get to see how good he will
- CNN/SI: A Sunday night game of the year, and one for the ages
- CBS Sportsline: Dolphins' Chambers still hurting
- CNN/SI: Banks' Shots
- CNN/SI: Unknown Title
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Fiedler goes out on top
- Palm Beach Post: Tays
- Dolphins Press Releases: Updated Player Biographies
- Miami Herald: Dolphins QB Out at Least 4 Weeks
- CNN/SI: Surgery to sideline Fiedler at least a month
- Dolphins Press Releases: Statement From Jay Fiedler Prior To Thumb Surgery
- Miami Herald: UPDATE
- CBS Sportsline: Dolphins' Fiedler out 6-8 weeks
- ESPNet Sportszone: ESPN.com
- Rocky Mountain News: Williams known to drop ball
- Rocky Mountain News: Schedules
- Rocky Mountain News: Broncos injuries
- Rocky Mountain News: Smith back at practice
- Rocky Mountain News: Shanahan anoints Portis
- CNN/SI: the Dolphins' victory
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Fiedler breaks thumb but plays on
- CBS Sportsline: Fiedler hurt
- Dolphins Press Releases: Dolphins At Broncos - Video Highlights
- ESPNet Sportszone: ESPN.com
- ESPN.com: Fiedler delivers despite broken thumb
- ESPN.com: NFL likely to punish Kennedy for hit on Chambers
- ESPN.com: TJ's Take On Week 6
- Dolphins Press Releases: Fiedler BreaksThumb In Comeback Win
- Dolphins Press Releases: LIVE PRESS CONFERENCE
- Yahoo: Yahoo! Sports
- CBS Sportsline: Full story
- CBS Sportsline: Columns
- Rocky Mountain News: FULL STORY »
- Miami Herald: Alive & Kickin'
- Miami Herald: Five keys to Dolphins-Broncos
- Miami Herald: Dolphisn report card
- Miami Herald: Griese recalls painful debut
- Denver Post: dolphins-broncos notes & discussion, 10/14
- Denver Post: story, audio, photos, discussion & more, 10/14
- Denver Post: story & discussion, 10/14
- Denver Post: story, 10/14
- Denver Post: woody paige column, 10/14
- Denver Post: column, 10/14
- The Sporting News: SportingNews.com - NFL
- Rocky Mountain News: FULL STORY »
- Miami Herald: Surtain steps out of shadows
- Miami Herald: Chambers gets drilled
- Miami Herald: Greg Cote
- Miami Herald: Fiedler, Pro Bowl a match?
- Miami Herald: Dan Le Batard
- Palm Beach Post: Dolphins enraged as Chambers suffers concussion
- Palm Beach Post: Madison, Surtain got Dolphins covered
- Palm Beach Post: Story
- Palm Beach Post: Mare makes most of chance
- Palm Beach Post: George
- Denver Post: SPORTS
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Analysis
- Miami Herald: Fiedler Breaks Thumb But Plays On
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Taylor impresses in victory
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Chambers receives a concussion
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: PHOTO GALLERY
- Florida Today: See complete story
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: NFL Week 6 photo gallery
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Win is greater than sum of its parts
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: Mare's 53-yard kick defeats tough Denver
- Yahoo: Yahoo! Sports
- Miami Herald: Mare's FG lifts Dolphins over Broncos
- CNN/SI: Dolphins 24, Broncos 22
- ESPNet Sportszone: ESPN.com
- CBS Sportsline: Mare trumps Broncos' Elam for 'Phins
- Miami Herald: Miami's Chambers Hurt in Helmet Hit
- CNN/SI: Box Score
- ESPNet Sportszone: ESPN.com