Dolphins finally get complete game from defense in win over Broncos

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' defense has played decent in stretches this season. But at no point has the group dominated an opponent from start to finish -- until now.

Miami’s defense battered and baffled the Denver Broncos and their struggling quarterback, Trevor Siemian, en route to a 35-9 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins (5-7) broke their season-high five-game losing streak while not allowing an offensive touchdown.

The Dolphins’ defense kept this game out of reach. It held Denver to just 274 total yards of offense and registered a safety and pick-six in the first half to jump-start the offense. The Broncos’ only touchdown of the game occurred when Miami quarterback Jay Cutler threw a pick-six to Denver safety Justin Simmons in the second half.

Miami entered the game with just four interceptions in its first 11 games. On Sunday, starting cornerback Xavien Howard had two.

What it means: The win does not mean much for the Dolphins in the big picture. It keeps them mathematically alive for the postseason, but they are a long shot and must run the table to even be considered. Some South Florida fans will argue that these late victories with nothing on the line hurt Miami’s draft position next April. But the current players and coaches cannot think that way.

What I liked: Miami finally played complementary football. That had been missing during its five-game losing streak. The Dolphins scored nine points defensively in the first half while the offense took advantage of short fields and turnovers. Miami’s offense also made enough big plays. Cutler had four passing plays of 20 yards or more -- one to tight end Anthony Fasano, one to receiver Jarvis Landry and two to Kenny Stills.

What I didn’t like: Despite the blowout win, Cutler had a so-so game in his return from a concussion. Cutler threw for 235 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Fantasy fallout: Sunday marked the first career start for Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake. The 2016 third-round draft pick replaced the injured Damien Williams as the featured back and recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of his career. Drake ran for 120 yards on 23 carries, which included a 42-yard touchdown run.

Going streaking: Dolphins long-snapper John Denney played in his 204th consecutive game for the Dolphins. That is the longest streak in team history and is tied with Hall of Famer Jason Taylor for the second-most total games in team history. Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh started his 95th consecutive game, which is the longest streak among NFL defensive tackles.

What’s next: Miami will try to avoid the season sweep when it hosts the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (10-2) on Monday Night Football. This is a rematch from last week, when the Patriots beat the Dolphins 35-17 at Gillette Stadium.