MIAMI - Another test awaits.
After a pair of tough losses in the first two weeks of the season, the Broncos will face one of the top teams in the AFC in the Miami Dolphins.
In their first road game of the regular season, the Broncos will battle former head coach Vic Fangio and 2018 fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb.
And that's just on the defensive side, as head coach Mike McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa lead a dynamic offense that ranks among the league's best.
As Head Coach Sean Payton and Co. look to earn their first win of the 2023 campaign, here's a look at a matchup to watch, a stat to know and a question for the Broncos to answer.
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
CB Pat Surtain II vs. WR Tyreek Hill
The Dolphins' offense has plenty of speed - a "track team," as Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph described them this week. Miami's attack, though, begins with talented wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who leads the AFC with 16 catches for 255 yards and three touchdown receptions through two games.
Hill has been particularly effective down the field, as he leads the NFL with 759 receiving yards on deep targets since joining the Dolphins last year, according to Next Gen Stats.
Cornerback Pat Surtain II, though, is among the best at stopping downfield attempts. Surtain has allowed four receptions for 144 on deep passes since 2021, which ranks tied for the second-fewest deep receptions and third-fewest receiving yards among cornerbacks who have faced at least 25 targets.
In their lone career meeting, Hill had just two receptions for 22 yard on five targets - and he was targeted just once with Surtain in coverage. On that play, which came during Surtain's rookie season, the talented cornerback recorded an interception.
During Hill's career with the Chiefs, he never recorded a 100-yard game against the Broncos - but he did finish with an 11-0 record. Surtain will aim to limit Hill again and help the Broncos find a win in the process.
ONE BIG QUESTION:
Can the Broncos - on both sides of the ball - find success on third down?
A week ago, the Broncos' defense mostly found success on third down against the Commanders. Denver held the Washington offense to a 27.3 percent third-down success rate, allowing the Commanders to convert on just 3-of-11 attempts.
That is, except for a series of plays in which the Broncos allowed a first down via penalty. On a pair of occasions, Denver was whistled for a penalty on third down that kept a Washington drive alive - and the Commanders scored touchdowns on both of those possessions. On another, Denver was whistled for pass interference on second-and-long - and again, Washington cashed in for seven points.
"Third downs, that's where your time is spent during the week," Joseph said Thursday. "So when you don't win those - not because of the scheme or not making a play - [but] off a call, a holding call or a face mask, it's demoralizing. You have to reboot and go do it again, but it adds plays to your total. And it also adds points. It's the NFL, right? If you give an offense three more chances on a drive, they're going to make at least a field goal."
As the Broncos look to slow a high-powered Miami offense, they'll need to take advantage of opportunities to push the Dolphins offense off the field. Miami boasts the top-ranked total offense, and the Broncos cannot give the group extra opportunities to make plays.
Offensively, Denver will look to continue the success it's found early in the season, as the Broncos lead the NFL in points per possession and overall touchdown rate. Against a Fangio-led defense that is known for preventing big plays and strong red-zone defense, that means the Broncos must find success on third down to maintain possession.
"Part of it is playing complementary football, and part of it is the type of defense we're seeing," Payton said. "We've got to be good on third down. That's the one thing that will be important - and then red zone. Vic's always done a good job of playing good red-zone defense. They don't give you a lot, but what they give you, they play it very well."
The Broncos currently rank 16th in the NFL with a 39.1 percent third-down conversion rate, and they'll face a defense that ranks 30th in third-down defense and 31st in red-zone defense.
They'll also look to continue the first-half success they've had in each of the first two weeks over to the second frame.
STAT TO KNOW:
The Broncos' postseason chances took a hit in Week 2 as they dropped a two-point decision to the Washington Commanders, but history suggests the Broncos may still have a chance at the postseason.
In seven of the last 10 seasons, an 0-2 team has rebounded to make the postseason. And in a cluttered AFC that features just two 2-0 teams, there figures to be plenty of intrigue the rest of the way.
A win over the Dolphins would certainly help the Broncos' chances of making the postseason.
"You have to get on to the next game," Payton said. "You have to make corrections. You can't just blindly say, 'All right.' You have to make corrections. This will be a good test for us. [It's] a good team we're playing, obviously."