ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --One week after St. Louis quarterback Shaun Hill threw at Chris Harris Jr. just three times, Miami's Ryan Tannehill tested the fourth-year cornerback more often, throwing at him eight times.
And after a missed tackle attempt on Jarvis Landry led to a 20-yard gain on the first series, Harris made things rough for Miami receivers, as usual. He limited them to just six yards after the catch on five receptions the rest of the day, and provided the tight coverage that forced a deflection and a T.J. Ward interception in the fourth quarter.
In addition to his stellar coverage work, Harris, along with fellow starting cornerback Aqib Talib, is an adept, aggressive run defender. But the Dolphins opened the game with a touchdown drive that saw them use receivers in motion to draw Harris and Talib away from the flow of the run play.
Check out the top shots from the Broncos' comeback win over the Dolphins.
On the first snap, Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry motioned to the left, drawing Harris' coverage, and running back Lamar Miller ran right for five yards. Two plays later, Talib and then Harris followed Mike Wallace to guard against a potential end-around to the right, and Miller dashed 22 yards in the open field to the left.
"That's what they tried to do. I'm in motion every play. They've got to put me in motion, or they've got to put guys in stacks to have a chance on me," said Harris. "That's what they've been doing, and that's something that I'll be aware of this week, too."
The Dolphins continued to keep Harris and the defense off-balance in the first half, but Denver tweaked its tactics at halftime, eliminated the Dolphins' open-field runs and gradually choked their offense, holding it to just seven rushing yards on six carries after halftime.
"We came in playing a little more to the pass instead of just worrying about the run and had more pass personnel guys in there," Harris said. "But we were able to adjust and get some more run-stoppers in and kind of shut down the run."
POPPING WITH CORNICK
The Broncos opened the game with six offensive linemen, using Paul Cornick as an extra tackle on the first four plays. The formation proved effective at driving the Dolphins' defensive line back, allowing running backs C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson to get into a rhythm.
On the 14 non-kneeldown plays the Broncos ran with Cornick as a sixth offensive lineman, the Broncos averaged 5.64 yards on 11 runs -- and 8.33 yards on three passes. Their average per rush was a bit better out of three-wide receiver formations (6.41 yards per carry).
The passing threat will be key to making the personnel group as a part of a balanced offense. In St. Louis, Manning took a shotgun snap from behind the six-man line and located Demaryius Thomas for a 15-yard gain.
The first time the Broncos passed from this formation against the Dolphins, Cornick got into space and blocked Jelani Jenkins, setting Emmanuel Sanders up for a 6-yard gain on the screen pass. Later on the possession, Cornick lined up to the left when Manning threw to Tamme out of a bunch alignment; the 5-yard touchdown pass was wiped out by a pass-interference call against Thomas.
In a similar vein to the Broncos' occasional three-tight end looks last year, this can become an effective change of pace if the Broncos can establish enough balance to prevent defenses from overplaying the run when they see Cornick on the field.
A lost fumble by Isaiah Burse on a punt return, the shortest missed field goal by the Broncos in one day shy of two years and a 12-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty against Omar Bolden for blocking Miami's Lowell Rose into a line of photographers on a punt return ensured that the day would be one to forget for Denver's special teams.
But Bolden also provided promise by averaging 33.3 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 40-harder that allowed Denver to start its third touchdown drive of the game from its 40-yard-line, providing a needed jump-start with an 11-point deficit.
Bolden was also busy on defense, working 16 plays (including plays wiped out by penalties) as a No. 3 cornerback after Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster succumbed to hamstring and shoulder injuries. Bolden saw 15 defensive snaps in the first 10 games of the season.
"I think 'O' did good, man," said Harris. "He's been playing a lot of safety and moving around and roaming everywhere. He does everything. He's kind of a guy that can play everywhere, and I mean, for him to come in and fill that role, that was huge for us to finish that game."
- Three of the Broncos' five starting offensive linemen made ProFootballFocus.com's all-star team for Week 12: guards Louis Vasquez and Manny Ramirez and right tackle Louis Vasquez.
- Most of the Broncos' rushing success came going to the right. Behind strong games from Vasquez and Ramirez and the pulling blocks of Orlando Franklin, Anderson and Thompson combined to averaged 11.3 yards per carry when bursting around right guard, tackle and outside, capped by Anderson's 26-yard, game-sealing run.
- The newest Bronco, linebacker Todd Davis, played 15 special-teams snaps in his first on-field work since being claimed off waivers from New Orleans on Nov. 13.
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