When Vance Joseph was the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator last season, one of his favorite places to eat was the Royal Pig Pub & Kitchen.
It’s more American fare than barbecue. Now the head coach of the road winless Denver Broncos, Joseph set out to change his methods by calling on the familiarity of his former hometown establishment. Joseph took his entire team out to dinner Saturday night at the Royal Pig.
Maybe they will play well Sunday against a similarly struggling team in the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Broncos have lost seven in a row and will be down some manpower as Aqib Talib, Derek Wolfe, Ron Leary and Domata Peko won’t play.
Trevor Siemian, though, is back at quarterback.
The Dolphins have lost five in a row, but they Jay Cutler returns at quarterback.
Here are 9 keys to the Broncos ending their losing streak and beating the Dolphins:
1. Offensive breakout
The Broncos are averaging an NFL-worst 14.1 points during their seven-game losing streak. BUT, the Dolphins have allowed a league-worst 35.4 points during their five-game losing streak while surrendering 160.2 rushing yards a game, again the league-worst.
2. One less turnover than they do
The Broncos -16 turnover ratio is worse than all NFL teams but the winless Cleveland Browns, who are -17. However, the Dolphins have eight turnovers in its last two games. Their -10 turnover ratio ranks 30th in league.
3. Lead ‘em, Trevor
Hope this week comes Siemian, who is back as the Broncos’ starting quarterback after he played extremely well in the fourth quarter last week at Oakland, throwing two touchdown passes in two drives.
The only three times the Broncos won this year, Siemian was their quarterback.
4. Harass Jay Cutler
Miami backup quarterback Matt Moore was sacked seven times last week by New England – and the Patriots don’t have much of a pass rush. Broncos’ outside linebacker Von Miller should get at least 2.0 sacks in this game, and Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray should get at least one.
The Broncos will need a strong pass rush as they are depleted in the secondary with the suspension to cornerback Talib.
5. Stop Julius Thomas
At his best, which was the 2013 season and first half of 2014 with the Broncos, there was not a better tight end scoring threat. With 34 catches for 342 yards through 11 games this season, Thomas has a chance to have his most productive season since 2013. And the Broncos have struggled mightily to stop tight ends during their losing streak.
6. Help the new right side against Suh, Wake
Connor McGovern is getting his first career start in place of Leary at right guard. Donald Stephenson is playing in only his fourth game this season, and getting his first start, at right tackle.
On the left side of the Dolphins’ defensive front is left tackle Ndamukong Suh and left end Cameron Wake, who has 8.0 sacks.
The Broncos can help their new blockers by running to the left, and having their tight ends or backs throw some supportive chip blocks as Siemian drops back to pass.
7. Run the ball
C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles each had big games in their only games against the Dolphins. Anderson had a career-best 167 yards rushing and added another 28 yards receiving in a 2014 game against Miami. Charles had three catches for 102 yards in his lone game against Miami in his rookie year of 2008.
8. Linebackers fill gaps
We all know Miami coach Adam Gase would prefer to pass. But he probably will try to run the ball in this game as the Broncos’ defensive front missing its top two run stoppers in Peko and Wolfe.
And running the ball helps neutralize Miller’s pass rush.
Running back Kenyan Drake has never had 10 carries in a game but he has averaged 5.1 yards in his limited carries.
It’s imperative Broncos linebackers Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall hit the right gaps.
9. Dig deep and go for it
During this losing streak, the Broncos were blown out in the first five before they were competitive in their most recent two defeats, 20-17 to Cincinnati and 21-14 to Oakland.
There may be times when the game isn’t going the Broncos’ way against Miami. They need to somehow carry on, fight through it and hope someone makes a play that changes momentum.