MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. --Three turnovers, two safeties and a blocked punt were just part of a damaging equation that was too much to overcome for the Broncos in a 35-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
The loss, the Broncos' eighth in a row, dropped them to 3-9. As the losses have accumulated, frustration has, as well. "I think it's taking a big toll, because every week we say the same things, we answer the same questions the same way," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "Every week we do the same thing week in and week out, and we don't make it any better. I think it's getting frustrating, more frustrating, because we know what we're doing wrong as a group, especially on our side of the ball. We feel like we're fixing it throughout the week (and) in practice and stuff and then come game [time] it just [goes astray].
"(The) last two weeks, something happens in the end zone. We got two safeties today. Last week, we had a pick in the end zone. It's the same story every week."
So why did the Broncos fall?
BECAUSE EARLY MISCUES DERAILED THE OFFENSE**
In a script that has become all too familiar for the Broncos over the last two months, first-half mistakes helped push the Broncos into an early deficit from which they could not recover.
The first, an interception on a Trevor Siemian pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders, ended a promising drive that had seen the Broncos march to near midfield after starting at their 11-yard line. Denver opened the drive with three runs for 21 yards to get some momentum, then moved to near midfield after a 15-yard Miami penalty before the interception.
One possession later, a bad snap got the Dolphins on the scoreboard. With Denver in third-and-10 at its 5-yard line, the snap sailed over Siemian, who knocked the ball out of the end zone for a safety.
Denver managed to find its footing and regain the lead by driving to a 31-yard field goal on its next series, but after Miami regained the lead on a 9-yard Jay Cutler-to-Julius Thomas touchdown, the Dolphins extended it on the next play from scrimmage when Xavien Howard stepped in front of a Siemian pass intended for Demaryius Thomas, returning it 30 yards for a score to push Miami's lead to 16-3.
"The corner [Howard] had his feet out on [Thomas], and I just left it inside a hair," Siemian said. "If I could do it again, I'd just sail it over his head."
Denver trailed by double digits for the rest of the game.
"It's still the same way, man," said Chris Harris Jr., who had a spectacular second-quarter interception, which was one of three Broncos takeaways. "I don't know what's going on, but we can't afford to keep turning the ball over and not play great on special teams. You've got to play great on special teams and defense on the road, and unfortunately, we didn't bring that all together."
BECAUSE THE PASSING GAME WAS UNABLE TO FIND A CONSISTENT RHYTHM**
There was a moment on the Broncos' third possession when it appeared that Siemian and the aerial game had found a groove. He hit tight end Virgil Green and wide receiver Bennie Fowler III on consecutive plays for 36 and 23 yards, respectively, at the end of the first quarter to move Denver from its 23-yard line to the Miami 18.
But over the next two quarters, Siemian would muster just 72 yards on 9-of-23 passing, with just 28 of those yards coming on passes to wide receivers or tight ends.
In addition to the two first-half interceptions, Siemian was intercepted for the third time 4:26 into the fourth quarter when a pass for Fowler was picked off by Howard, setting up a Cutler-to-Kenny Stills touchdown one play later.
The Broncos' passing struggles were most pronounced on third downs. Denver converted just one of its 13 third-down attempts and often faced long-yardage situations on those plays. Denver's average third-down distance needed was 8.0 yards. Five of their 13 third-down attempts required 10 or more yards to reach the line to gain. Penalties were a contributing factor.
"You can't have three interceptions and a pick-six and the sacks, but it wasn't all [Siemian]," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "Offensive line-wise, we struggled and we had five or six holding penalties again, we had some dropped balls, guys not separating in coverage. So it wasn't all Trevor. It's the entire unit."
BECAUSE KENYAN DRAKE DEALT A SINGLE, EXPLOSIVE PUNCH**
Despite the absence of injured defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko Sr., the Broncos contained Drake for most of the afternoon. Late in the third quarter, he had posted an average of 3.5 yards per carry on his first 18 attempts.
But with the Broncos trying to get back into the game moments after Justin Simmons' 65-yard interception return had narrowed the Dolphins' lead to 10 points, Drake burst into the open field for a 42-yard score that put the Dolphins in front by three scores.
"When Sunday comes, it's like it's something different every Sunday," inside linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "It's like we can't play a clean game to save our lives, and that's the issue."
Photos from the Broncos' Week 13 game against the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. (Photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)