Final Score: Broncos 39, Dolphins 36 (Updated)

Last updated: Nov 24, 2014 9:28 AM

The Broncos (8-3) used three fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome an 11-point deficit and take down the visiting Dolphins (6-5) in a 39-36 shootout (Game Book).

Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, including three to Demaryius Thomas.

Despite that gaudiness, C.J. Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders were Denver's biggest stars of the day, amassing a whopping 323 yards from scrimmage.

Not far behind were the Broncos' offensive linemen, who delivered a sterling performance after having been sharply criticized in recent weeks. Manning was sacked just once (completely his fault, too), and Denver pounded out a season-high 201 rushing yards on 35 carries.

Only time will tell whether it was a matter of Denver's shuffled line gaining familiarity with and confidence in each other, the return of blocking tight end Virgil Green, or all of the above. Either way, Denver's offense awoke in a big way on Sunday, and in the best way possible - with balance, and against one of the league's elite defenses.


Miami burst out of the gate with a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive that was about as easy as they come. Von Miller took a knee to the balls on the first play, and was lost for the rest of the possession.

Daniel Thomas capped it with a three-yard touchdown run (video); the Dolphins rushed for 44 yards on the possession. 

Denver responded with a heavy dose of C.J. Anderson, but their drive fizzled just inside the Miami red zone, and Brandon McManus was good from 38.

From there, the teams exchanged punts, with Denver miscues (a penalty on Omar Bolden, and then a typically poor punt from Britton Colquitt, leading to a 17-yard return) giving Miami the ball at the plus-47.

Miami again scored with alarming ease, needing to convert just one third down along the way. Ryan Tannehill trotted into the end zone from a yard out, giving the Dolphins a 14-3 lead (video).

Four passes to Sanders, three C.J. Anderson runs, and a personal foul call on Dolphins corner Jimmy Wilson got the Broncos into goal-to-go range.

An offensive pass interference call on Demaryius Thomas nullified a touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme, but two throws to Thomas covered the remaining 15 yards and drew the Broncos to within 14-10 (video).

But the Dolphins and Lady Luck came right back with an 80-yard touchdown march, during which Miami fumbled three times. The first two times, the ball rolled out of bounds, while the third was recovered by Lamar Miller. On the next play after that, Tannehill fired a beautiful 10-yard score to Mike Wallace for a 21-10 lead (video).

The touchdown seemed to suck the air out of SAF@MH, but Manning & Co. came right back with a terrific scoring drive before halftime.

Manning threw for 90 yards on the 80-yard march (Will Montgomery was penalized for 10 yards), completing it with a 14-yard strike to Thomas (video).

Denver appeared in trouble early, but went into halftime within 21-17 and with the second-half kick coming their way.


Their first drive of the third quarter was promising, with Anderson and Juwan Thompson carrying the Broncos down to the Miami seven. But Manning didn't throw to his first read, even though Wes Welker was wide open, instead taking a brutal eight-yard sack.

Making matters worse, McManus clanged his 33-yard attempt off the right upright, giving him four misses in 13 attempts. The blown kick left Manny Ramirez and Demaryius Thomas visibly upset (video). FWIW, Matt Prater now has four in 16, after his 53-yard miss at New England on Sunday.

A 12-yard sack of Tannehill by Terrance Knighton blew up Miami's next drive, but Isaiah Burse inexcusably fumbled while hopelessly fighting for extra yards on a punt return that was headed nowhere fast.

That set Miami up at the 12, and four plays later, the Dolphins stretched out to a 28-17 advantage on a five-yard scoring pass from Tannehill to Jarvis Landry.

For the second time of the day, Omar Bolden provided the Broncos with solid field position with an excellent return, this one to the minus-40.

Once again, Denver threw a heavy dose of Anderson and Thomas at the Dolphins, who had no answer. C.J. ran for 37 yards, and Demaryius covered the other 23, with an easy five-yard touchdown making for three receiving scores on the day (video). Thomas has had one other three-touchdown game to his credit, last season at San Diego.

Among Anderson's carries was a 20-yard jaunt on 4th-and-2 from the plus-41 (video). Whether it was the field position or a lack of confidence in Colquitt or McManus, it was nice to see John Fox go for it, and be rewarded. And above the predictably lame protestations of Phil Simms, Fox gutsily called for a two-point attempt, and Manning delivered with a simple throw to Sanders to draw Denver within 28-25.

Brandon Marshall shortcircuited Miami's next possession by dropping Lamar Miller for a four-yard loss after a first down, and a holding penalty on the ensuing punt gave the Broncos the ball at their own 30.

Once again, Denver turned to their three stars of the day, as Anderson, Sanders, and Thomas accounted for the entirety of their 70-yard touchdown drive. C.J. walked in from 10 yards out on a devastating block by Orlando Franklin, who had come under fire during the prior two weeks (video).

It took 54 minutes and 59 seconds to get there, but at 32-28, the Broncos had their first lead of the day.

Three plays later, a first-down throw by Tannehill glanced off the shoulder pad of a leaping Knighton, off the hand of his receiver Landry, and into the waiting arms of T.J. Ward, who returned his second Denver interception 37 yards to the Miami eight (video).

Two throws to another Bronco written off of late - Wes Welker - gave Manning his fourth touchdown of the game, and the Broncos a 39-28 lead (video).

Aided by three defensive penalties, the Dolphins drove 84 yards in nine plays, scoring on a one-yard pass from Tannehill to Landry (video) and two-point conversion by Miller.

But Anderson (who else?) recovered the onside kick (video), and then helped run out the clock on Miami with a 26-yard run on second down (video).

Notes

The Broncos are again alone in first place in the AFCW, a game up on the Chiefs ahead of next week's rematch at Arrowhead. The Chargers joined KC at 7-4 by hanging on for a 27-24 win over the Rams.

Denver remains a game behind New England (9-2), who earlier in the day trounced Detroit 34-9.

Although he scored three times, Demaryius Thomas's 100-game streak ended at seven games (87 yards), one shy of the NFL record owned by his fellow GT alum Calvin Johnson.

Manning joined Drew Brees and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks in history with a touchdown pass in 50 or more consecutive games.

Links

Highlights: NFLN and BTV recap the game; highlights of Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, and C.J. Anderson; John Fox's postgame speech

Interviews/Pressers: John FoxC.J. Anderson, Peyton Manning (Part 1, Part 2) speak afterward; here's what Peyton had to say

Denver recaps: Lindsay JonesMike Klis, Andrew MasonTroy Renck, Jeff Legwold, Arnie Stapleton (Part 1, Part 2)

Miami recaps: Adam Beasley, James Walker, Armando Salguero, Chris Schmaedeke

National recaps: Gregg Rosenthal, Associated Press

Joan Niesen, Andrew Mason, Jeff Legwold, Cecil Lammey, and David Ramsey describe C.J. Anderson's huge day.

David DeChant, Mike Klis, and Jeff Legwold focus on Demaryius Thomas's exploits.

Four of Emmanuel Sanders' nine catches resulted in third down conversions.

As Ben Hochman explains, T.J. Ward was all over the field in an up-and-down performance.

Mark Kiszla says Denver showed some much needed toughness on Sunday.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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