Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos


DENVER -- A few thoughts from the Denver Broncos' 39-36 win against the Miami Dolphins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

What it means: The Broncos, 2-3 on the road, felt a dent put into their home dominance for most of the day. The Dolphins were well prepared, particularly on offense, where they consistently found room to work against the Broncos' specialty packages -- the nickel and dime looks. Miami had success early in the run game, building a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Broncos didn't have their first lead of the day until they scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5 minutes, 1 second left to play.

Stock watch: The Broncos' special teams have been anything but special for much of the season. And while the offensive line, the defense and even quarterback Peyton Manning have felt the sting of criticism at certain points this season, the Broncos need their third phase to step forward in the coming weeks or the threat of losing a game bigger than Sunday's is very real. Brandon McManus missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter when he bounced it off the left upright -- his third miss in the past five games -- and punt returner Isaiah Burse, who swings the ball as he runs, promptly fumbled at the Broncos' 12-yard line after the defense initially held after the missed field goal.

Pound the rock: Something that will certainly get attention in the coming week from a team that can run out of open formations the way the Kansas City Chiefs can: The Dolphins made a concerted effort to line up in a three-wide receiver look and run the ball against a Broncos formation that included five and six defensive backs. The Dolphins rushed for 70 yards against the Broncos' nickel package in the first half to go with 13 yards against the dime. Both of the Dolphins' rushing touchdowns in the first half came from inside the Broncos' 5-yard line and were against the dime package.

Game ball: The Broncos were very much promise keepers when it came to their intention to run the ball more in this one. After running the ball just 10 times in the loss to the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, one of those a kneel-down by Manning just before halftime, the Broncos promised all week they would make a far bigger effort to run the ball and C.J. Anderson answered the challenge. Anderson had 27 carries for 167 yards -- and it was just the kind of effort the Broncos are going to need as the temperatures drop and it gets more difficult to throw.

What's next: The Broncos have a chance to put the clamps on the AFC West race with a prime-time showdown with the Chiefs (7-4) in Arrowhead Stadium. The Broncos already hold a Week 2 win against the Chiefs, so a season sweep would put Denver on the inside lane for its fourth consecutive AFC West title.