Tua Tagovailoa came to Denver driving a rookie high as the first Miami quarterback to start his career 3-0.
He left Empower Field on Sunday after being benched, his momentum controlled thanks to a dominating, disruptive performance from the Broncos defensive front. Denver was tied with six sacks and an exhausted Tagovailoa was replaced early in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 20-13 victory.
“We knew (Tagovailoa) had done a good job running that attack for the past three weeks, so we knew it was going to be a struggle and a challenge to get back there and make him uncomfortable,” said Broncos’ outside linebacker Malik Reed. “We wanted to rush him, so it’s great to see that we finish with six sacks, because that’s what we’re aiming for as a defensive front. To really get after him, that was the goal. ”
The Broncos’ pockets took 33 yards away from the Miami attack, starting with a Dre’Mont Jones attack in the first quarter and culminating with Bradley Chubb’s resignation in the last quarter. That sack resulted in Tagovailoa’s benching in Miami’s next streak, a move Dolphins coach Brian Flores said was unrelated to injuries.
Journeyman DeShawn Williams, promoted to Denver’s active roster on Sept. 25 after a four-year hiatus from the NFL, kickstarted the Broncos’ rush with two sacks. Reed had 1.5 bags, Chubb and Jones each had one, and DeMarcus Walker came in with half a bag.
The Broncos also had five tackles for a loss and eight quarterback hits.
“We put in a little more pressure (than we did this year), but I actually intended to do it even more than we did,” said coach Vic Fangio.
Fangio was pleased with the bag’s total, calling them “hard to get,” while crediting the secondary’s role in Sunday’s success in advance.
“The bags got into the down a little later, so our coverage was good and we had to keep grinding,” said Fangio. “We had our shot at a few others, but Tua and (Ryan) Fitzpatrick are elusive guys and good scramblers.”
Chubb felt like the pressure the Broncos generated on Miami’s first possession, a three-and-out that rushed Tagovailoa into two overthrows, set the tone.
“We wanted to get to him early, wake him up a little early, and I feel like we did,” Chubb said. “We kept coming back for the rest of the game. The key kept it in the pocket, and once we did, the hits started to add up. ”
The attacking team took note of the bagging match on the other side of the ball. Walking back Phillip Lindsay, who ran 82 yards, acknowledged that the attack was going on during the second half, accelerating defensive dominance.
“It’s hard when we go three-and-out and put the defense in a bad spot (like we’ve done),” said Lindsay. “If we can do this every game, you see a defense that is in the top two, in the top three. If you put them in a situation where their backs are (constantly) against the wall, that’s not a good thing. But if we do our thing, and move and drive the ball and keep them off the field to rest, you’ll see a better defense out there, a more confident defense out there, and the Denver defense that (fans) are used to. ”
Denver also held Miami 56 rushing yards on 17 carriers, about half of the 98.7 rush yards the dolphins averaged. The secondary’s soundtacking helped, with safety Justin Simmons pacing the team with seven tackles, while Reed and linebacker Alexander Johnson each had six tackles each.
Tagovailoa, meanwhile, never found any rhythm in the passing game after his first quarter touchdown pass to DeVante Parker. The No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft finished 11-of-20 through the air for 83 yards, with one touchdown.
And a seat on the couch.