Week 12 – Miami @ Denver: One to remember

After a week of excessively cold weather in Denver, the temperature for the game at Mile High today was a relatively warm 39 deg F (4 deg C). None of that mattered.

We went into the game at 7-3, having lost two of our last three games including a humiliation in St Louis last week. Today had to be different and, without being too dramatic, it seemed the entire 2014 season was on the line.

In the pre-game Dan Marino and John Elway could be seen chatting amicably on the sideline. Something in Marino’s demeanor suggested he had already penciled in a win for the Dolphins. Another bad sign. Thankfully Don Johnson was not around on the sidelines like it was back in the day when Miami Vice was a hit show.

So the game begins and Miami scores a seemingly effortless touchdown on their first drive in a matter of minutes.  Not good. We reply with a 38-yard field goal later in the first quarter without much momentum, really, to speak of.

Tannehill arranged another Dolphins touchdown early in the second quarter and hearts sank around the stadium.  Demaryius Thomas and Peyton combined midway through the second to get our first touchdown, so things weren’t slipping too badly. Tannehill responded with another touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the first half, leaving the stadium thinking “catch up” was to be the order of the day.

Then the Broncos offensive machine clicked into gear and, in a rush up the field in around 90 seconds of playing time, Peyton found Demaryius again and we went into halftime a respectable four points down.

The first drive of the third quarter was fruitless for the Broncos (a missed 33-yard field goal attempt by McManus not a great morale booster it must be said). The Dolphins had another touchdown by the end of that quarter and at 28-17 the Miami fans, in greater abundance than the usual away team representation, were in fine voice.

A Broncos’ drive started late in the third was completed (Peyton and Demaryius, again) early in the fourth. A two point conversion with a pass to Emmanuel Sanders was excellent football. 

It was my first ever eyewitness experience of such a conversion and just rewards for Sanders who had narrowly missed more than one 30 odd yard pass today and had taken a heavy hit from McLeod (no relation) in St Louis a week back. The risk of going for a two point conversion had paid off and brought Denver to within a field goal of Miami.

No mention yet of the MVP on the day, C.J. Anderson. I love the passing game, the NFL’s most attractive element.  C.J. Anderson might too. But as the temperature cooled as the sun set, he just kept the rushing going doing, literally, the “hard yards.”

It always seems easy to play well when the team is firing on all cylinders, but must be much harder when playing from behind for the first 55 minutes of a 60 minute game. Anderson’s rushing efforts were impressive throughout and he thoroughly deserved the 10-yard run to a touchdown with five minutes to go to put Denver in the lead for the first time.

Miami was back on the job only briefly when T.J. Ward  intercepted a Tannehill pass and set up a Welker (who had been quiet) touchdown seemingly putting the game beyond doubt. Many of the fans – especially those in Miami colors – started leaving at that point.

But there was one roll of the dice left and a Miami touchdown and their own two point conversion reduced the margin to three with 1:34 to go. Overtime was looking like a real possibility.

Sanders readied to catch the kickoff from Miami (and run it home?) but Miami did a tricky onside kick about 10 yards along the ground and hoped for a fumble from Denver as they scrambled to make sense of the play and pick up the ball. Thankfully it didn’t happen, as none other than C.J. Anderson jumped on the ball and provided Peyton with the chance to “take a knee” and run the clock out.

By the time the game finished, the temperature had slipped below freezing (to 31 deg F) and this seemed a bigger issue as we headed for the “Broncos Ride” buses to get home (even my friend from Tasmania who once “wintered over” in Antarctica was feeling a little chilly). 

The air temperature was definitely low, but sprits were high as we walked out among oceans of very happy orange and blue fans, all of the opinion we had seen a one to remember.

Nov 23
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO (76,987)

Miami  7  14  7  8 – 36
Denver 3 14  0 22 – 39

Passing: Peyton Manning (DEN), 257 YDS, 4 TD’s
Rushing: C.J. Anderson (DEN), 27 car, 167 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Demaryius Thomas (DEN), 10 rec, 87 yds, 3 TD’s
Pigskin Almanac “Hard Yards” Award: C.J. Anderson (DEN)

About

Tony McLeod grew up in Melbourne, lives in Canberra and is spending 6 months in Colorado in 2014 where he is trying to get to as many Denver Broncos and University of Colorado Buffaloes games as possible. He is part of the generation introduced to the game by Don Lane via his elder brother.

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