Check out snapshots of the best action from the second half of Sunday's win over the Dolphins.
DENVER —**Earlier this week, Terrance Knighton declared this match would be a statement game for the trenches. That was the way this defense had built their reputation, and it would be the way they had to go to get back on track after last week's loss to the Rams.
And despite falling into an early hole like they did in that previous game, they re-established themselves in the second half and helped get the ball back to the offense to power the comeback from being down 11 points. Calmly, they collected themselves at halftime without any sense of panic and returned to the style of play on which they had set their names.
"They were doing some things that were confusing us and we came in at halftime and said 'Let's get back to the basics. Let's do what we do and force them to beat us that way,'" Knighton said. "We did a good job of at least giving our offense a chance to make a lot of plays. It's tough to play in this league and like I said, a win is a win and we'll take it."
And though I'm not sure I recall Knighton chasing down mobile quarterbacks for 12-yard-loss sacks in the defense's foundation, it certainly didn't hurt to have that on top of a return to form.
With a two-possession lead well into the third quarter built upon an efficient first-half mix of rushing and passing success, the Dolphins suddenly found themselves struggling to get back into rhythm against the Broncos' defense. Save for a 12-yard touchdown drive after a fumble recovery on a punt return, Miami's offense couldn't move the chains often in the second half until their last drive of the game.
The Dolphins' rushing offense faltered, stopped for a mere seven yards in the second half, and Miami could only summon a paltry total of 101 yards in the second half, less than what they gained in each of the first two quarters.
The Broncos' defense kept digging deeper holes for the Dolphins on third down, and then execution on third down gave Denver's offense the chances they needed turn the game in their favor. In the second half, Miami's average yards-to-go on third down was 12.2 yards. One was converted by penalty and they converted one other.
Another major difference between the defense's first half and second half play was their ability to get a turnover. The Dolphins had gotten the ball to bounce their way often in the first half. Denver forced three fumbles on a single drive in the second quarter, but two tumbled harmlessly out of bounds and Miami recovered the other one en route to a touchdown on the following play.
But the Broncos would get their turnover—finally—in the fourth quarter.
After holding a lead over Denver ever since the first drive of the game, Miami had to try to get their offense going from behind. In a crucial play, Chris Harris Jr. jumped under Jarvis Landry on an underneath crossing route, getting his hand on the ball, tipping it into T.J. Ward's hands at the 45-yard line.
"We just knew we had to keep playing. One of those balls were going to bounce our way. We just had to keep playing, keep fighting," Ward said. "[Harris] got his hand on the ball, tipped it up and I just reacted. It was a great play by him and I made the most of the opportunity."
And though Ward and many others watching in realtime didn't notice it on first blush, Knighton started off the interception with his own slight deflection at line.
"[Knighton's] a big man, he makes a lot of plays down there and his arms are long so he's able to deflect a lot of balls," Ward said.
The interception put some finishing touches on the defense's spark in turning around an important game in their first game back at home. And it showed the defense's tenacity, especially with some injuries to key players.
"We couldn't give in, we had to keep fighting," Ward said. "We had some guys go down: Talib went down, [Kayvon Webster] went down, [Brandon Marshall] went down at the end of the game. Next guy up, and my hat's off to Omar Bolden. He played a great game when he came in, made some plays. That's what you call a complete team effort today: offense, defense, special teams. Our backs were against a wall, but we pushed through."