Broncos, Dolphins try to snap season-spoiling losing streaks
MIAMI — With the losses mounting, Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph draws on what he learned last year from Adam Gase, hoping to beat him.
The close friends and former colleagues will be reunited Sunday when the bedraggled Broncos play Gase’s downtrodden Dolphins. The coaching matchup might be the most compelling aspect of an otherwise unsightly game between teams trying to end season-spoiling slumps.
The Broncos (3-8) have lost seven in a row, their longest skid in 50 years. The Dolphins (4-7) have lost five straight, their worst stretch since 2011.
But Joseph remembers an improbable turnaround by Miami last year, when he was defensive coordinator under first-year head coach Gase. And Joseph anticipates Gase’s best shot.
“Both teams are going through some struggles right now,” Joseph said. “But I know him. He’s tough, he’s smart and he’ll figure it out — hopefully not Sunday.”
Here are things to know about the two coaches and their last-place teams:
REUNION: Joseph said he and Gase talk by phone a couple of times a week. They’ve known each other since 2008, when both were assistants with the San Francisco 49ers, and they’ve endured lots of losing before.
That includes in 2016, when Miami started 1-4 before rebounding to win 10 games.
“Being with Adam last year was awesome,” Joseph said. “We had adversity and no one blinked. He kept pushing, the team kept pushing, and we made it out of it. When you go through those things with a person, it makes you close, because it was hard.”
The overachieving Dolphins reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years despite losing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a season-ending injury. They won a succession of close games even though Joseph’s defense set a franchise record for most yards allowed.
“Our guys loved him, and he held those guys accountable,” Gase said. “Things didn’t always go perfect for us, but he was such a grinder and battler. He kept those guys in the right frame of mind to help us push through.”
There are other ties between the two sidelines. Gase was an assistant for the Broncos in 2009-14 and stays in touch with some of their players, who are well aware of the Dolphins’ tribulations this year.
“Goose, that’s my dude,” Denver running back C.J. Anderson said. “We text a little bit throughout the season. He’s highly upset with some things.”
QB CAROUSEL: Both teams have had trouble scoring, in part because of quarterback issues.
Jay Cutler, who has pitched only two complete games in the past six weeks because of injuries, will be back in the lineup for Miami. Trevor Siemian will be the third different quarterback to start for Denver in as many games.
“We just want to win,” Siemian said. “We’re starving for a win. We all have something to prove.”
GIVEAWAY: Another problem plaguing both teams is turnovers. Denver ranks next to last in the NFL in turnover differential at minus-16. Miami is third worst at minus-10.
Each team has thrown 15 interceptions, which is tied for the league’s second-highest total. And both teams rank among the worst in takeaways.
SEEKING A BREAKTHROUGH: Dolphins center Mike Pouncey called last week’s game at New England a must-win situation. Miami lost 35-17, so what does that make Sunday?
“This is another must win,” Pouncey said. “We need start with one win — just get one, and then we will have a tendency to win a couple after that. Play team football and get back on track.”
Joseph agreed about the need to find something positive to build on.
“You’re hoping to get one game that turns it,” he said. “It’s a physical game, but it’s also a mental game. We haven’t won in a while, so when adversity strikes on game day, we have to figure out a way to overcome it mentally.”
SHORT-HANDED: Denver four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib will sit out to serve a one-game suspension for fighting last week with Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree. Broncos nose tackle Domata Peko is sidelined by a sprained knee ligament, ending his 123-game starting streak, the longest by a defensive lineman in the NFL.
Dolphins reserve quarterback Matt Moore was ruled out with a foot injury, and Cutler’s backup will be David Fales, who has thrown five passes in his pro career.