MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The unbeaten Dolphins will bring one of the NFL's most explosive offenses and an improving defense into their matchup with the winless Broncos. But Miami defensive tackle Christian Wilkins knows better than to underestimate Denver and Russell Wilson.
The veteran quarterback has overcome each of his two previous 0-2 starts — both with Seattle — to make the playoffs.
“His resume speaks for itself and the things he’s been able to do in this league," Wilkins said. “He presents a lot of challenges, just being able to obviously be great in the pocket, run when he needs to — a great leader.”
Wilson's early numbers show improvement from a year ago, when he had the lowest completion percentage (60.5), touchdown total (16) and passer rating (84.4) of his career.
He has five TD passes and 485 yards in two games. The Broncos just haven't been able to finish games, but Wilson said he's drawing on past experience to help turn the team around.
“Definitely been to the playoffs before after being down 0-2,” he said. “The good thing is you’ve got more pitches coming, more games to play. You don’t blink.”
That starts Sunday in the sweltering heat of South Florida against a Dolphins team that is ranked No. 1 in passing offense and tied for third in scoring.
Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is getting the ball out quickly. He's only been hit four times this season and leads the league with 715 yards passing.
“I think that should tell you all you should know with the guys we have up front," Tagovailoa said. “And guys are buying into new techniques, new fundamentals with how they’re getting off the ball, so having Tyreek (Hill), having (Jaylen) Waddle, having fast guys also helps me get the ball out quicker to be able to distribute that and throw off timing for the rushers as well.”
FATHER & CHILD REUNIONS
Second-year Broncos receiver Brandon Johnson is looking forward to playing in the same stadium where his father, former major league catcher Charles Johnson, won Game 7 of the 1997 World Series with the Marlins.
“It’s definitely surreal, man,” Johnson said. “I remember going as a kid and watching my dad play. The stadium is different now but this is definitely exciting to play in that same stadium.”
Another father-son duo looking forward to the Broncos’ trip is Patrick Surtain — who played for Miami and Kansas City during his 11-year NFL career and is currently an assistant at Florida State — and Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II.
“Playing in the stadium my dad played in, it’s going to be a surreal moment,” Surtain said. “I just remember watching games there at Dolphin Stadium and just playing on the field, growing up in the locker room, you know, just being around professional athletes."
The Broncos have looked unbeatable in the first half so far, scoring touchdowns on five of their eight drives, and unrecognizable after halftime, scoring just one TD in eight series. The one score came on Wilson’s 50-yard Hail Mary that Johnson snared with no time left in last Sunday's loss to Washington.
“I think we just have to play cleaner in the third quarter,” said Wilson, whose team leads the league in accepted penalties with 19.
By totaling 56 yards on six runs last week, Wilson became the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 40,000 yards and run for 5,000.
“It’s definitely a cool thing,” Wilson said. “Growing up, I watched guys like Steve Young and Joe Montana and Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham and the Donovan McNabbs of the world, and so to be in that category and to do something like that is a blessing.”
Wilson also threw for 308 yards last week, the fifth time in his career he’s topped 300 yards passing and 50 yards rushing in a game, behind only Young (eight times) and Josh Allen (six).
WHERE IT STARTED
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel began his coaching career as an intern with the Denver Broncos in 2005 and refers to Mike Shanahan — Denver's coach from 1995-2008 — as one of his biggest influences. McDaniel's first NFL game was a matchup between the Broncos and Dolphins. Sunday will be his first time facing Denver as a head coach.
“It was the team that I found my love for football with ... a tremendous organization and I wouldn’t be here without it," McDaniel said.
AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.
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