ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Miami's defense made the leap this year from having an outstanding defensive line to getting stellar play from all three lines of defense.
The result is a unit that ranks among the league leaders in most categories. No defense allows fewer yards per play, or is stingier on a per-play basis at conceding first downs.
For the Broncos, the key to success Sunday might be patience -- which could be especially difficult and counter-intuitive seven days after the offense lurched to its lowest scoring output since Jan. 1, 2012.
"The hardest part is staying patient in this game and not getting frustrated," said Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase.
The Dolphins frustrate opponents in a variety of ways. Cameron Wake is one of the best edge rushers in the game, and will provide another stern test for Broncos tackles, just one week after Robert Quinn's big game at their expense. Olivier Vernon is a quality edge rusher on the other side that prevents teams from devoting too much attention to Wake, and 2013 first-round pick Dion Jordan is beginning to emerge after a disappointing rookie season and two suspensions to open this season.
"This is probably one of the better defenses we've seen since Seattle," said Gase. "This whole group—they are really good. They are good on the back end, the linebacking core is playing excellent and that front is tough.
"It's going to be a challenge for us this weekend. They are not the second-ranked defense in the NFL for no reason. They've been playing really well, especially lately."
And although their pass rush is what jumps off the page, given Wake's consistency and the effectiveness at using stunts and twists to generate pressure without blitzing, Miami's run defense is among the league's best on both a per-play (seventh in yardage allowed per carry) and move-the-chains basis (just one of every 5.49 runs against Miami gets a first down, fifth-best in the league.
Given the Broncos' goal of cultivating and rebuilding the run game after just nine handoffs and a kneeldown last week, the Dolphins' run defense, led by defensive tackle Randy Starks, presents a formidable foe in which to begin that task.
"It's hard to go into a game and say we are just going to do this. So we have to see how this game is going to go, script what you're thinking early but it can change really fast," said Gase.
"We've gotten 10, 12 plays deep in what we thought we had planned and then we've gotten about three plays in and had to change course. So it's going to be a little bit of how things go and if it sounds like it's a 20-miles-per-hour wind that might change everything. We have to see how it's going to be on that day."
Louis Vasquez will be tested at his new tackle spot against Cameron Wake, while DeMarcus Ware will face off with a rookie first-round pick.
And when the Broncos do throw, cornerback Brent Grimes is one of the best defenders the Broncos will face this year. The one-handed interception he nabbed against Detroit on Nov. 9 made everyone's highlight reel.
"Yeah, I [did not ever] think a corner could get that," said Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. "When I saw it, I was shocked. That was a good play by him."
But Grimes is more than just a spectacular play: he's a lockdown cornerback. And with Jamar Taylor expected to replace the injured Cortland Finnegan, the Broncos might have even less reason to try and test Grimes.
"He's athletic, he's quick, he's fast," said Thomas. "I feel like he's one of the best cover guys in the league, just being able to stop on a dime and he's explosive, he can jump. He can do it all, so it'll be a good matchup this week."
The coverage of Grimes, plus the pass rush, gives the Dolphins the league's second-best pass defense on a per-game measurement -- and its top unit on a per-pass-play basis. It has the capability to contain even an elite passing game.
That's why Gase preaches patience.
"If you get knocked off the field a couple times on third down, you just know you're going to have to reload and come back the next series and be ready to go again and try to put one together," Gase said.
MIAMI BY THE NUMBERS …
- Yards per game: 302.5, 2nd
- Yards per play: 4.69, 1st
- Takeaways: 25, 9th
- First-down rate: One every 3.89 plays, 1st
- Third-down conversion rate: 38.89 percent, 10th
- Yards per game: 208.0, 2nd
- Yards per pass play: 5.23, 1st
- Sack rate: One per 13.27 pass plays, 6th
- Touchdown rate: One every 28.43 pass plays, 4th
- Quarterback hurry rate (per ProFootballFocus.com): One per 2.93 pass plays, 4th
- First-down rate: One per 3.29 pass plays, 3rd
- Yards per game: 94.5, 8th
- Yards per rush: 3.83, 7th
- First-down rate: One every 5.49 carries, 5th
- Touchdown rate: One every 61.75 carries, 2nd