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 »This Week in History
Miami Dolphins

  Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel | Player Wire

  The Miami Dolphins (6-4) face one of their biggest tests of the season when they visit the Denver Broncos (7-3) on Sunday, and much of the job will rest on the offense.

Miami has to protect its playoff hopes against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (30 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 107.1 passer rating, third in NFL) on a day when the high temperature is expected to be about 37 degrees.

Further complicating things is the Dolphins will probably have to score at least 24 points to win, and most likely they'll need to score around 28 or 30.

The Dolphins' defense is good, second in total defense (302.5 yards per game) and fourth in points allowed (18.0). They haven't allowed more than 20 points in the past five games, during which time they've gone 4-1.

But the offense has to do its part.

The Dolphins are 11th in scoring (24.9 ppg), but they struggle to score on big plays and in the red zone. Their longest scoring play is 21 yards, and they rank 30th in red zone touchdowns, converting at 44.9 percent.

The Dolphins' offense has nine plays of 30 or more yards, and none have gone for touchdowns. The Dolphins' longest rushing touchdown is nine yards.

The defense has scored touchdowns on plays of 81 yards (fumble return) and 50 yards (interception return).

"Certainly if you look at (the Broncos') offensive production, they might be fifth in the league at scoring, they're averaging 29-and-a-half points a game," coach Joe Philbin said. "They're averaging over 400 yards of offense. They've been a very high scoring team for a number of years.

"So you'd think that rationale certainly is one that we would use, but I think you have to be ready to change midstream. Maybe the game is going to unfold in a different fashion than we thought. Certainly, we're not going to be reckless. But yeah, points are going to be important, each possession is going to be important in this game."

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 92.2 passer rating, 14th in NFL) doesn't excel at downfield passing so the deep ball has been practically eliminated from the offensive gameplan.

The Dolphins stick to what Tannehill does best - short and intermediate passes, rollouts, bootlegs and read options.

Tannehill is completing a career-best 65.4 percent of his passes and he has rushed for a career-best 261 yards. He has had a career-best 40-yard carry and two 30-yard carries.

Combine that with the NFL's sixth-best rushing offense (127.3 yards per game), and, well, you still don't know if the Dolphins can generate enough points to outscore Manning and his high-powered offense.

SERIES HISTORY: 17th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 11-4-1. Denver won the last meeting, 18-15, in overtime in 2011. That was the most memorable recent game, too. Dolphins owner Steve Ross, desperate to sell tickets, planned to honor the 2008 Florida Gators national championship team the day of the game. It just so happened quarterback Tim Tebow had recently overtaken Kyle Orton as the starter. Tebow led the Broncos back from a 15-0 deficit late in the fourth quarter and eventually led the Broncos to an overtime victory.

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