MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins took an early lead for a change, and it grew from there.
Xavien Howard returned an interception for the Dolphins’ second touchdown in a seven-second span during the first half, and they went on to snap a five-game losing streak by beating the reeling Denver Broncos, 35-9.
The Dolphins were ahead at halftime for only the second time all season, and led after three quarters for the first time.
“It changes a lot,” coach Adam Gase said. “We’re able to turn those four pass rushers loose. It makes a big difference and puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They get there quick.”
Thanks to a dominating defense, Miami (5-7) won for the first time since Week 7. The Broncos (3-9) went from bad to worse, losing their eighth game in a row to extend the franchise’s longest skid in 50 years.
“It’s a tough situation,” three-time Denver All-Pro linebacker Von Miller said. “A lot of stuff going on. The defense isn’t playing well enough to win. I’m not playing well enough to win. The whole team is included in this one. Tough times.”
Miami scored two safeties in a game for the first time in franchise history and held Denver to 1 for 13 on third-down conversions. Trevor Siemian, the Broncos’ third starting quarterback in as many weeks, went 20 for 42 for 219 yards with three interceptions and three sacks.
“It has been hard to find a guy to operate efficiently for us so we can win a football game,” embattled first-year Denver coach Vance Joseph said. “We’ll watch the film and see who the best option is for us next week.”
Kenyan Drake rushed for 120 yards for Miami on 23 carries, both career highs. He scored on a 42-yard touchdown run — only the Dolphins’ second rush for a TD this year.
Howard scored on the first interception by a Miami outside cornerback all season, and added another pick in the fourth quarter to set up the Dolphins’ final touchdown.
Gase didn’t hold back coaching against Joseph, his close friend. Miami pulled off a successful onside kick in the fourth quarter while leading 33-9.
“We’re just playing for 60 minutes,” Gase said. “We’re not going to slow down, and I don’t care what the score is.”
Jay Cutler went 18 for 31 for 235 yards and two scores but threw two interceptions. Justin Simmons scored Denver’s touchdown on a 65-yard interception return.
Drake had his first 100-yard rushing game and made three receptions for 21 yards. He said the workload was his heaviest since high school.
“I could have ran it 20 more times the way the O-line was blocking,” Drake said. “Give all the credit to them.”
The Dolphins won for the first time since they traded running back Jay Ajayi on Oct. 31.
Miami’s Julius Thomas celebrated a 9-yard scoring catch on his knees with a ride-’em-cowboy dance. One play later, Howard stepped in front of a pass intended for Demaryius Thomas for his first career interception and sprinted to the end zone.
Denver fell to 0-6 on the road and looked lost. Miami took a 2-0 lead when the Broncos botched a third-down play at their 5. Mark Paradis’ high snap deflected off Siemian’s hands, and the ball squirted out of the back of the end zone.
Denver’s Isaiah McKenzie fumbled on a punt return and recovered in his end zone for another safety in the fourth quarter.
Dolphins: C Mike Pouncey left the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. … CB Cordrea Tankersley left the game with an injured shoulder, returned and departed again because of an ankle injury.
Broncos: S Justin Simmons was evaluated for a possible concussion and cleared to return. … LB Joseph Jones was helped off the field in the fourth quarter. … Reserve RB Devontae Booker saw limited action because of the flu.
The Dolphins host New England on Monday, Dec. 11. The Patriots beat Miami 35-17 a week ago.
Denver returns home to face the New York Jets next Sunday.
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