Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers pulled a win out of the fire in Miami, and in doing so, they moved to 4-2 on their season.
10:10, 1st Quarter – Aaron Rodgers started out sharper than he has all season, driving the Packers 80 yards for a touchdown on their opening possession.
For the majority of their opening drive, the Packers offense played its normal three receiver set with Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson on the outside and Randall Cobb in either slot. When the Packers wanted a lead back for Eddie Lacy, they shifted Andrew Quarless into the backfield.
After a quick pass to Adams got 5 yards, Rodgers faked to Lacy and hit Adams in the seam for 18 yards. On the next play, Rodgers handed it to Lacy for the first time up the middle. The play looked promising, except Quarless and Corey Linsley appear confused about who should block which linebacker and in the end, they blocked neither. It is a 1-yard gain. After a quick dump to Nelson and a generous spot picked up another first down, Lacy tried the middle again. Cameron Wake overcommitted to the inside and ended up on the ground. If Lacy ran to his right, it would have been a big run. Instead, Lacy simply plunged into the line straight ahead and got nothing.
On the following 3rd and 8, Rodgers pretty much fooled everyone by calling his own number and following Linsley straight ahead for a first down. On the very next play, Rodgers found Cobb on a corner route that picked up 28 yards, down to the Dolphins’ 9. On 1st and goal, Rodgers faked to Lacy and threw a strike to Nelson in the middle of the end zone for the score.
8:15, 1st Quarter – The Dolphins took advantage of a good kick return to answer with a field goal, making the score 7-3 after one possession for each team.
Just called up from the practice squad, Kevin Dorsey celebrated his first real game time as a Packer by attacking a blocker and leaving the sideline wide open for Dolphins’ return man, Jarvis Landry. Landry gladly took advantage, running the ball out to midfield. This would not be the last we would see of Jarvis Landry.
On the Dolphins’ first play from scrimmage, Ryan Tannehill dumped to Lamar Miller in the flat. Jamari Lattimore did a Packer form tackle — meaning diving with your arms outstretched — and ended up flat on his face while Miller ran free up the sideline for nearly 10 yards.
That first down would be the only one the Dolphins would get though. On 3rd and seven, Nick Perry pushed his man into Tannehill’s lap, who threw the ball out of bounds. Caleb Sturgis came on to try a 53-yard kick, until a Packers’ offsides turned it into a 48-yard field goal. Sturgis barely put it through to make it 7-3.
1:55, 1st Quarter – The Dolphins fail to capitalize on a blocked punt when they get stopped at their own 3 on 4th and goal.
The Packers got just one first down on their next possession before trying to punt. Facing 3rd and 9 after two mysterious and failed runs by James Starks, Rodgers found Adams again for 11 yards. On the following play, however, a Starks’ run up the middle was destroyed when middle linebacker Jelani Jenkins shot the gap before Linsley or T.J. Lang could pick him up. Starks tried to bounce it outside, ran into Cameron Wake and ended up losing 3 yards. Two plays later, Wake used a rip move to get by Bryan Bulaga and sack Rodgers.
Tim Masthay would come in to punt, but Lattimore apparently thought his guy would be blocked by someone else. Wrong. Instead the Packers got to join the illustrious group of teams to have a punt blocked, and they were probably lucky that the Dolphins could only recover the ball at the Packers’ 16. That is three special teams plays and three disasters for the Packers, if you are scoring at home.
After picking up a first down with a pass to Landry, of course, a run by Knowshon Moreno moved the ball to the Packers’ 1-yard line. The Dophins tried the draw to Moreno again, but this time, Letroy Guion blew the play up and tackled Moreno for no gain. On third down, Tannehill faked the run and tried the quick slant to Brian Hartline over the middle. Davon House undercut the route and Tannehill was lucky the ball went through his hands.
On 4th and goal from the 1, Miami tried the same handoff to Moreno that failed before. It was abused even worse this time. Guion again penetrated into the backfield and cut Moreno off. Morgan Burnett was immediately behind and tackled Moreno for a 2-yard loss. Celebrations ensued.
It appears that Jamari Lattimore injured himself while helping Burnett with the tackle because he is not seen again after this point.
8:10, 2nd Q – The Packers get a field goal off a turnover to finish the second half scoring at 10-3.
The Packers ran for one first down and then Randall Cobb caught another, to at least move the ball away from the end zone, before the Packers had to punt again.
On the following first down for the Dolphins, Nick Perry tossed a blocker aside and then threw Miller backwards. Miller unwisely stayed on his feet, comically ran the wrong way for a moment and then got mugged for a 9-yard loss. On the following 3rd and 12, Tannehill stared down and then tried to float one for Landry. Casey Hayward came off his guy and dropped back to pick the pass off. Hayward returned the ball to the Dolphins’ 36 and it should have been the 21 after Landry clearly tackled him by the facemask.
There was no call, however. You should not be surprised. This game would make all six so far this season where the referees don’t call ANYTHING.
The Packers would have one successful offensive play after the interception, when Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for 14 yards on a square out on the far sideline. However, after two runs left the Packers with 3rd and 7 from the Miami 16, Olivier Vernon jumped the snap and sacked Rodgers to force the field goal. Vernon was clearly already surging forward before the snap, but was he offside? Too close to call. Regardless, it would help if the Packers stopped snapping the ball with one second left on the play clock.
The Dolphins sandwiched a couple three and outs around a drive by the Packers that was killed by an illegal grounding on Rodgers. The second three and out ended when Tannehill somehow thought Brian Hartline could beat Sam Shields deep. Shields intercepted it instead. The Packers took over and picked up a couple first downs to run most of the half out before punting it away.
Tannehill would actually advance the ball to midfield on a 19-yard pass to Landry before a Mike Neal sack would pretty much end that party. Half over.
11:50, 3rd Q – The Dolphins started the second half as well as they could have hoped with a quick 80-yard drive to tie the game at 10-10.
The 80-yard drive was essentially three plays. On 2nd and 5 from their own 25, Tannehill kept it on the read option and was loose like Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs a couple years back. This time, Micah Hyde was around to run him down after a 40-yard run. As badly as Clay Matthews was burned on this play, this play would keep Matthews frozen on every handoff to the running back from here on out. Also, the play could have been held to around a 10-yard gain if Tramon Williams makes a better attempt to tackle Tannehill as he runs by.
On the next play, Tannehill tried for Mike Wallace on a fly against House and was rewarded with a soft pass interference call. Okay, these referees don’t call anything, except for THAT. It was a pickup of 21 yards, moving the ball to the Packers’ 14.
A couple false starts left the Dolphins with a 3rd and 7 from the 11-yard line. The Packers blitzed six, including Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was in immediately. Tannehill threw it up and it ended up a perfect pass to Landry at the back of the end zone. Tramon Williams had tight coverage, but missed the ball by maybe an inch on the jump ball. Nothing wrong with the defense there. That’s just a great play by the offense.
3:45, 3rd Q – The Packers follow with an 80-yard drive of their own to go back ahead at 17-10.
It appeared that the Packers were going to weather the little Dolphin uprising when they punched back with their best drive of the game.
The Dolphins opened with only six in the box, so Rodgers went with a zone block left to Lacy. Lacy found a big hole up the middle and gained 10 yards. Rodgers then picked up another first down when he pump-faked safety Reshad Jones into the air and ran around him for 9.
On 3rd and 1 at midfield, Rodgers gave to Lacy over the right guard. However, no one gets off the line to pick up linebacker Koa Misi, and he has a free run to Lacy and stuffs the play. Amazingly, Mike McCarthy went for it on 4th and 1, and it paid off when first Rodgers made a ridiculous play to Nelson and when defensive holding was called on the Dolphins anyway.
Two plays later, Davante Adams took a hook at the sideline, shook off a hit by Cortland Finnegan, and then exploded up the sideline for 24 yards. After Rodgers found Nelson on an out against Brent Grimes for another first down, the Packers faced 3rd and goal from the 5. It was at this point when Rodgers decided to get medieval with it. He first stepped out of the way of Wake, moved outside to his right, juked Misi, and then while running full speed to his right and slightly backwards, whipped back across the middle of the field. For a brief moment, I’m like “NO!” until Randall Cobb bursts onto the screen at which point the ball hits him right in the hands. Tuddy.
13:50, 4th Q – That is two possessions in the second half and two 80 yard touchdown drives, and we are tied again at 17-17.
The game builds towards imminent disaster at this point. Prior to the first play of the drive, Sam Shields tweaks his patella tendon and goes down. On the second play of the drive, the Dolphins run an illegal formation, and in making the tackle, Brad Jones rolls over the ankle of Tramon Williams, putting him out of the game. That is two starting corners down in two plays, if you are scoring at home. And yes, the play got called back on a penalty and thus never even happened except for Tramon’s ankle.
On the very next play, Mike Pennel almost made his first play as a Packer, but Tannehill escaped his grasp, ran out of the pocket to his right, and then found Mike Wallace with four Packers surrounding but not covering him for 25 yards. On the next play, the Packers blitzed both middle linebackers and Miller popped a gap between both of them for 14 yards. Tannehill then picked up a 3rd and 7 with a bullet to Damian Williams on a deep cross against Jarrett Bush. The play was good for 14 more yards. It should have been a drive-ending sack, but right tackle, Ja’Wuan James grabbed Nick Perry after he got beat, saving the play. Even though the grab happened right in front of the world, there is no call, which at this point, should surprise no one.
From there, the Dolphins just repeatedly ran the read option at the Packers’ nickel, which is especially vulnerable to that play. Amazingly, when the Dolphins faced 2nd and 1 from the 5-yard line, the Packers were STILL in their nickel. When the Dolphins lined up in a big set, they had seven blockers to the Packers’ six. Unsurprisingly, Miller punched through the middle for a 5-yard touchdown.
9:15, 4th Q – The Packers defense was in full-on meltdown mode now as the Dolphins go 79 yards in just six plays to go ahead 24-17.
First, the Packers offense picked a bad time to have its first and only three and out of the game. After a zone right run to Lacy got 1 yard, the Dolphins caught Rodgers by surprise with a mad dog blitz, and he was forced to throw it away. On 3rd and 9, Rodgers stepped out to his left and then was forced to basically throw it away.
The Dolphins picked up from their own 21-yard line. Their 79-yard drive would be made possible and brought to you by missed tackles. On the first play, Casey Hayward was giving up the 8-yard stop to Wallace, except Hayward then missed the tackle and Wallace went up the sideline for 25 yards. On 3rd and 2 from midfield, Brad Jones was covering the swing pass to Miller and has a stop if he can just get Miller out of bounds or to the ground. Instead, Jones made a Packer form tackle — diving with arms outstretched only to come up empty — and Miller went up the sideline for 20 more yards.
On the next play, the Packers blitzed Clinton-Dix, and Tannehill dumped to Landry on a shallow cross. It’s the same play that Clinton-Dix blew up with a big hit early in the game, except this time no one is home. Landry gets 21 more yards up the same sideline where the rest of the damage was done.
On 1st and goal from the 5, Tannehill steps up and just out of the reach of Mike Neal, double pumps, and then finds Mike Wallace with a diving catch in the back of the end zone. Mike Neal was a step away from a sack, but in a play that typified the second half for both teams, Damien Williams stepped in at the last moment and got between Neal and Tannehill, which allowed the touchdown to happen.
4:10, 4th Q – The Packers drove for a field goal to narrow the lead to 24-20 and put the game back in the hands of the defense.
Starting at their 20, the Packers faced 3rd and 9 right away. Rodgers bought a little time and then found Nelson down the right side for 22 yards. On the next play, Rodgers beat a safety blitz with a quick pass over the middle to Nelson for 14 more. The Dolphins remained convinced that Brent Grimes can cover Nelson by himself, which was a huge bonus for the Packers.
After two runs by James Starks gained 20 yards, the Packers faced 3rd and 6 from the Dolphins’ 12. With a blitz closing in, Rodgers took a shot for Nelson against Grimes. Nelson actually mistimed his jump or this would have been a touchdown, which would have robbed us of a more spectacular finish.
Mike McCarthy wisely decided to take the field goal and Crosby came in and made it 24-20. Even if you go for it and manage to pick it up and then manage to score a touchdown to tie it up, you are still going to need your defense to stop Miami from driving for a field goal. So, either way, the Packers have to get one stop from their defense. At least this way, if the Packers get the ball back it will be with a chance to win.
2:10, 4th Q – The Packers defense actually gets a stop and sets the stage for Aaron Rodgers to enter stage right.
The Dolphins managed to pick up two first downs. The first came on another shallow cross to Landry and the second came on an illegal hands to the face penalty against Brad Jones, which nullified what would have been the best play of the year by a Packers inside linebacker. However, after that, Joe Philbin seemed unsure whether to be aggressive or conservative, and basically choked.
For one thing, the Packers finally have their base 3-4 defense in the game, giving them three down linemen to block instead of two. The Dolphins went with the trusty read-option on first down. However, this time there is no double team on Mike Daniels, and he pushed his blocker into the backfield and blew up the play. On second down, the Packers pay one back, as Tannehill tried to go play action pass only to run right into a Brad Jones’ blitz. Tannehill threw the ball away.
That brought up 3rd and 9. At that point, rather than taking a shot at a defense that the Dolphins had owned in the second half, Philbin elected to run it, which is especially baffling considering he was on the wrong side of the two minute warning. Clinton-Dix fought through two blockers to tackle the play after a 1-yard gain. Following that excellent play, Micah Hyde made a nice return on the ensuing punt, giving the Packers the ball at their 40-yard line. With a play to waste before the two-minute warning, Rodgers went with the draw to Starks, which the Dolphins should have been expecting, but gained 12 yards, moving the ball already past midfield with nearly two minutes left.
After a dump to Starks, where everyone was open, got just 1 yard, and a throwaway in the direction of Quarless, the Packers faced 3rd and 9. Cameron Wake went back to the rip move again and beat Bulaga. Rodgers just barely managed to escape that only to end up sacked by Vernon. The ball was knocked loose and the only reason the game didn’t end at that point was because T.J. Lang made his play of the game by diving on the loose ball.
That set up 4th and 10 and Packers fans were thinking, “Where is Chris Conte when we need him?” Thankfully, and moronically, Philbin decided to call a timeout, which gave the Packers offense a chance to gather itself without the clock running.
The complete beast Olivier Vernon used an inside move this time on David Bakhtiari and beat him. Vernon rushed directly into Rodgers’ face and if his arms were up, there was probably no way Rodgers could throw it over him. Fortunately, current NFL rules encourage rushing defenders to keep their hands down and Rodgers waited until Vernon was on him before releasing an out to Nelson. Grimes fell down. The pass was on target, and Nelson collected it and went up the sideline for 18 yards before carelessly stepping out of bounds.
That play is as good as it gets from an NFL quarterback.
A couple of near misses left Rodgers with 3rd and 10 at the Miami 30. Rodgers faced pressure again and dumped it over the middle to Starks. In a great piece of fortune for the Packers, middle linebacker Philip Wheeler thinks Richard Rodgers has the ball and runs right by Starks. This enabled Starks to get 11 yards and another crucial first down.
Rodgers then made his near fatal mistake by throwing a little short to Cobb in the flat. Cobb had to go to the ground to catch the ball and the clock ticked down to 12 seconds before Rodgers could spike it. Except Rodgers didn’t spike it! He put the Packers’ fate in the hands of a rookie by throwing it quickly outside to Adams. The Dolphins were in fine position and only needed to make a tackle inbounds to win the game. Finnegan isn’t aggressive enough and Adams not only gets outside of him, but also gets BY him for 12 yards, moving the ball down to the 4-yard line with six seconds left.
The Packers either have two very quick plays or one play left. When Andrew Quarless lined up out wide right and the Dolphins put a linebacker in off coverage across from him, it was clear where Rodgers was going. The linebacker, Wheeler, was understandably worried about the fade and cheating that way. This made it an easy play for Quarless to simply run at him, hand fight him and then turn around. With the quickest release in the league, Rodgers put it on him, hitting him right in the 1 on his jersey. It took three seconds.
Touchdown. Game over.
The Dolphins entertained us with a bunch of laterals that for one split second looked like it had a chance, until Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett entered the picture. Then, it quickly ended.
This was a great comeback win for Aaron Rodgers and for the Packers. The Packers rarely win in Florida or in hot weather, and Aaron Rodgers himself had never won in the state of Florida before. Any time you win on the road in the NFL, it’s a win to appreciate and especially when you overcome everything that the Packers did in the second half. Pulling this game out, in fashion similar to in Chicago last season, is something that should give Aaron Rodgers, the offense, and the entire team confidence. That is two consecutive must-get-points drives where Rodgers and the offense pulled it off. That could be the start of a trend.
The Dolphins were coming off their bye and had several guys back healthy for this game, all of whom made an impact. Their two bookends of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon are going to wreak havoc with far more teams than just the Packers this season. With the help of those guys and great performances from their linebackers, the Dolphins did everything they needed to win this game. They stopped the run and got after Rodgers. Unfortunately for them, their offense couldn’t get off the ground in the first half, and when they finally did in the second, a rare performance from Rodgers still beat them.
The Packers were better against the run in this game, even with playing their nickel defense for the majority, which is an oddity unto itself. The Dolphins got 63 yards from their running backs, with most of that coming off the read option in the second half. The read option also gave the Dolphins their biggest play of the game with Tannehill’s 40-yard run. Obviously, the read option is still a concern for the Packers, with Clay Matthews’ groin injury slowing him down and exacerbating that. Yet, for as much as the Packers appeared to struggle on the ground, they rushed for more yards than Miami did.
The Packers’ safeties and corners continue to play well, and other than obviously the injuries to Shields and Tramon, I’m not concerned about the pass defense. It seems like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is getting better every game. He was flying to the ball and making hits that I haven’t seen from a Packers safety in a long time. Between him and Davante Adams, the top of the Packers’ 2014 draft is looking pretty damn good.
Obviously, the Packers are weak at inside linebacker, but other than the whiffs by Lattimore and Jones that led to first downs that prolonged scoring drives, they weren’t a big factor in this game.
Surprisingly, the Packers got pressure, but only one sack in this game and none in the second half. That obviously attributed to the defensive breakdown. Clay Matthews used to be the best player on this defense and right now, the Packers are basically operating without him. That is a big blow. Nick Perry had a great first half, which helped mitigate Matthews not being effective, but when Perry and Peppers were controlled in the second half, things got ugly.
Once the corners went down, I knew the offense would need to win this game and they pulled it out. Rodgers’ performance was that much more spectacular because of the fact that he faced constant pressure throughout the game, even while only being sacked three times. Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari both struggled against very good pass rushers, and Olivier Vernon was everywhere against the run too. Bulaga is coming back from injury and Bakhtiari is dealing with one. So, let’s hope that played a role.
Regardless, Rodgers was able to overcome the pressure, and it helped that Davante Adams has emerged as another playmaker on the outside. Teams still think they can single Jordy Effin Nelson and that is a great thing.
Right now I put the blame for the Packers running game 20 percent on the coaches, 30 percent on Eddie Lacy and 50 percent on the offensive line. The Packers are running in bad situations, which is coaching. They are failing to create gaps big enough for Lacy to get through or to properly execute double teams and get to the second level, which is the line’s fault. And Eddie Lacy is failing to get outside when the middle is clogged. He is also hesitating and taking tacklers on instead of driving forward and getting the yards he can. I understand sticking with Lacy after the success of the Vikings game, but frankly, the better running back isn’t starting.
The Packers have now played four road games against just two home games, and they are 4-2. That is a pretty good spot to be in. ALL of the Packers hardest road games are over. Yes, I don’t consider New Orleans to be that hard of a road game anymore. The other road games are Minnesota, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. The toughest part of the remaining schedule is clearly the home games. All the Packers need to do is win at home.
That starts this coming weekend against another team in Carolina that really hasn’t shown what it’s going to be this season. The Packers better figure out something with the read option, though I expect the base defense will be the solution to that. If the Packers can get the win, then they will have the same start as last season before the injury to Aaron Rodgers changed everything.