ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Since Week 16 of the 2009 season, no team has won fewer home games than the Miami Dolphins, who have gone 1-11 at Sun Life Stadium.
In that same span, no one has won fewer road games than the Denver Broncos, whose sole away victory is matched only by the Carolina Panthers. Their road mark in that 25-week stretch of action is 1-10.
There are good reasons why this edition of Broncos-Dolphins lacks the gravitas of other duels between the clubs, which included a September 1985 game in snow flurries at Mile High Stadium, a January 1999 postseason showdown, and an October 2002 game in which the teams exchanged field goals of more than 50 yards in the final moments, with Olindo Mare’s kick being the final strike of a 24-22 Dolphins win.
But for both, you have to look at their situational marks. Miami’s once-formidable home-field advantage has evaporated in recent years, to the point where not even a “Gator Day” promotion and the return of Tim Tebow could sell out the ticket allotment, although the Dolphins have ensured the game will not be blacked out in South Florida markets.
For the Broncos, the road record is bad enough, but the ledger in close games is worse. Since the start of the 2010 season, only the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals have a worse winning percentage than the Broncos’ .250 mark in games decided by eight points or less.
The Broncos are 1-3 in those close games this year, a record that fits perfectly with the trend established last season before Fox’s arrival.
“You’ve just got to play a little bit better (to fix that),” Broncos coach John Fox said. “We’re seeing signs of that. We’re getting a little bit healthier, but we still have to learn how to win, and win those close games.”
Health might help; the Broncos had all players on their active roster at practice for the first time since Dec. 24 of last year. Perhaps not coincidentally, they won two days later, 24-23 over Houston.
McGAHEE RETURNS: After being limited Thursday to rest a back injury, Willis McGahee practiced fully on Friday and is listed as probable for the game.
“It (the back) loosened up pretty well and he should be ready to roll,” Fox said after practice.
Resting a key skill-position player during a Thursday practice is a common practice for Fox, who did the same thing with running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and wide receiver Steve Smith during his recent years coaching the Panthers.
Fox said that McGahee’s carry count — which is on pace to be his highest since 2007 — isn’t being strictly monitored during the games.
“Not so much. We usually get a pretty good feel for that,” Fox said. “He’s proved to be pretty reliable (and) pretty durable.”
STILL THE CAPTAIN: Kyle Orton is no longer the starting quarterback, but has not had his captain’s duties revoked.
“The elected captains are voted on by the teammates,” Fox said. “Kyle is a professional, and it’s why he’s got the respect of those guys in that locker room.”
“That’s my role on the team now, so you embrace it and do everything you can to help the team, whether that’s running scout team or being ready to go Sunday,” Orton said.
FINAL STATUSES: It looks likely that wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal will return to action Sunday. Both were listed as probable on Friday’s injury report and practiced fully … Tight end Julius Thomas was limited in his work Friday and is questionable.