MIAMI GARDENS — Xavien Howard had played more than 1,200 regular-season NFL snaps without an interception.
That streak ended in glorious fashion on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
Howard stepped in front of Pro Bowler Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos near his right sideline and ran 30 yards for a touchdown and a 16-3 lead, sparking Miami’s blowout victory.
“I took the actions to the play,” Howard said. “I took some chances. Not thinking. Just playing.”
Howard said he knew what Thomas would do based on his recent extensive film study.
What did he think after he snagged the ball?
“All I saw was green grass in front of me,” Howard said.
Howard was dominant on Sunday, finishing with five passes defended and two interceptions. Thomas caught only two of 10 targets and he was routinely covered by Howard, especially after Cordrea Tankersley (ankle) went down for most of the game.
Howard actually gained some confidence on a key third-down pass breakup intended for Thomas early in the second quarter, before his first interception. Howard did a great job of getting his hand in and aggressively playing the ball.
“That’s some of the plays that I gave up (this season),” Howard said. “That I watched myself and criticized myself for. Plays that I know what the guy is going to attack. So I have to be aware of what the guy is going to do.”
In the fourth quarter, Howard picked up another interception, off a ball tipped by Jordan Phillips.
“Just trusting yourself and taking chances,” Howard said. “Going out there and just playing, not thinking, just going out there and playing.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he was pleased to see Howard “finally” get a few interceptions.
“It’s good to see him be aggressive and play confident,” Gase said. “Those two (Broncos) receivers are not easy guys to defend.”
Howard has not had the type of sophomore jump many predicted before this season, but the Dolphins coaches have not felt he’s played as poorly as some evaluators have suggested.
“A growing year,” Howard said. “Really just growing after each year and learning.”