DENVER -- Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio told his team during the week that if the defensive game plan unfolded the way he hoped, they would be facing Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick before the day was done.
Fast forward to the closing minutes of a 20-13 win on Sunday, and sure enough, the Broncos were indeed trying to quash a little FitzMagic after having gotten Miami's rookie starter Tua Tagovailoa benched. Broncos safety Justin Simmons intercepted Fitzpatrick in the end zone with 1 minute, 3 seconds left, putting a bow on a defensive effort the Broncos sorely needed.
"[Fitzpatrick] is just not afraid to take his shot ... we just kept telling ourselves defensively, we've got to make a play," Simmons said of the Dolphins' final drive. "We have to make a sack fumble, a couple pass breakups in a row, obviously an interception if we can, because he's going to be aggressive. That's just how he's made his living."
The Broncos made Sunday miserable for Tagovailoa, sacking him six times with eight quarterback hits. Dolphins coach Brian Flores pulled him from the game with 10:44 left. The Broncos had limited the Dolphins to 100 yards of offense at that point, with Tagovailoa having completed just 11 of 20 passes for 83 yards. His last snap was a 9-yard loss on a sack by linebacker Bradley Chubb.
The Dolphins' only touchdown -- a 3-yard pass from Tagovailoa to DeVante Parker early in the first quarter -- was at the end of a 22-yard scoring drive following an interception thrown by Broncos quarterback Drew Lock on his second pass attempt of the game. After that short drive, the Broncos kept Tagovailoa in check using a variety of coverage looks while limiting his ability to move out of trouble.
"We just wanted to get to him early," Chubb said. "... We saw it for the rest of the game and we just kept getting back there. I thought the key was making sure we kept him in the pocket and once we did that, just those hits starting to add up."
Fangio said he had planned to blitz more as the team prepared this past week, but he had to pick and choose as game unfolded because the Dolphins completed a pass or two early against the Broncos' pressure looks. Fangio kept a steady diet of twists and stunts in the defensive front as five different Broncos players had at least half a sack.
That included two sacks for Broncos nose tackle DeShawn Williams, who had waited more than 1,300 days between games played when he played in the Broncos' Week 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Malik Reed had 1.5 sacks, Chubb and Dre'Mont Jones each had one, and DeMarcus Walker had a half sack.
"Overall our front had to work hard. We did have six sacks, but they were hard to get, by that I mean they were late in the down, our coverage was good, we had to keep grinding," Fangio said. "... Just kudos to our front, the way they fought."
Simmons said the Broncos simply wanted to pass along their own discomfort with how the second half of their 37-12 loss to the Raiders had unfolded last week when the Raiders broke open a 10-6 game with 124 yards rushing in the second half.
"Being angry how last week went down, we just know we're better than that," Simmons said. "... We just didn't close it out as well as we know we can, just that feeling, all week, didn't sit right."