Dolphins Winning Streak Ends in Denver
The Miami Dolphins' winning streak is over, though they almost pulled off an amazing comeback after veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick came off the bench to replace Tua Tagovailoa.
Melvin Gordon scored twice to lead a Denver rushing attack that gained 189 yards and the Broncos defeated the Dolphins 20-13 at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday to end their winning streak at five games.
It was the first career loss for Tagovailoa as he came up short in his attempt to join Ben Roethlisberger as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to win their first four career starts.
Tagovailoa was replaced by Fitzpatrick on the Dolphins' second possession of the fourth quarter, and head coach Brian Flores said after the game the move was not injury-related.
The Dolphins' comeback attempt ended when Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons intercepted Fitzpatrick in the end zone with 1:03 left in regulation.
Tagovailoa threw his sixth touchdown pass of the season when he connected with DeVante Parker for a 3-yard score in the first quarter, but he had an uneven performance and was sacked six times by a Denver pass rush the Dolphins couldn't handle.
Tagovailoa's right foot was twisted on his last sack, so that may have played a role in the Dolphins turning to Fitzpatrick.
In his first action since Miami's 24-0 victory against the New York Jets in Week 7, Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to a field goal drive right away. He completed his first four passes, including a beautiful 25-yard touch pass to tight end Mike Gesicki on third-and-3 from the Dolphins 28.
The Broncos appeared ready to apply the final blow when Gordon approached the goal line on a running play on the ensuing possession, but Andrew Van Ginkel stripped the ball inside the 1 and safety Eric Rowe recovered the fumble.
The initial ruling of a touchdown was overturned upon review.
Fitzpatrick then marched the Dolphins from their 1-yard line to the Denver 15 before getting picked off on third-and-8.
The loss kept the Dolphins (6-4) from tying the Buffalo Bills atop the AFC East standings.
One of the few highlights for the Dolphins through the first three quarters came when cornerback Xavien Howard recorded his sixth interception on the season, tying for the NFL lead with New England's JC Jackson.
The game began like pretty much every other Dolphins game lately, with the defense helping provide an early lead.
After the Dolphins went three-and-out on their first possession, Howard dropped in zone coverage on third-and-10 and made a nice leaping grab to come up with his sixth interception of the season and returned it to the Denver 22-yard line.
The Dolphins appeared to return the turnover two plays later, but an apparent Justin Simmons interception was nullified by a defensive holding penalty.
After Salvon Ahmed converted a third-and-1 from the 4-yard line with a 2-yard run, Tagovailoa connected with Parker on a back-shoulder throw, with Parker doing a great job of getting both feet in bounds with a nice toe tap.
But the rest of the first half was tough for the Dolphins offense, which had only 82 yards at halftime.
Most of those — 52, to be precise — came on a field goal drive that tied the score 10-10. But it took 14 plays to get those yards, an indication of the team's inability to produce long plays.
There were two key third-down conversions on the drive that kept it alive, along with a 14-yard run by Ahmed.
Denver regained the lead with a field goal drive at the end of the half that featured a 25-yard run by Melvin Gordon and a 22-yard completion from Drew Lock to rookie Jerry Jeudy on third-and-10 from the Denver 41.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins pass rush wasn't much of a factor after the first few Denver possessions.
After going three-and-out the first two times they had the ball, Denver put together an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive where the Broncos overcame a second-and-22 by converting a third-and-13 with a 14-yard scramble by Lock.
After a 15-yard completion to tight end Nick Vannett put the ball at the Dolphins 1-yard, Gordon scored on a 1-yard run.
Denver took a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter on a field goal by McManus, though that almost was a win of sorts for the Dophins after the Broncos had a second-and-1 from the Miami 9-yard line.
The drive began with a 41-yard pass from Lock to Tim Patrick, but Emmanuel Ogbah led the charge on a stop on a running play and Kyle Van Noy then forced an incompletion on third down with a well-timed blitz.