What a great Christmas day performance by the Green Bay Packers. Behind from the opening drive and losing players in multiple positions to injury as they game progressed, this team rallied to pull out a second half comeback victory for the ages in Miami. The much aligned 2022 defense gave up 20 first half points. The Dolphins gashed them for big running and pass plays.
That same defense, that allowed 10 points in each opening quarter, shut Miami out in the second half and came up with three interceptions in three straight possessions with the game on the line. At the same time, the offense, missing multiple starting lineman and Christian Watson, put together enough plays to come back from a touchdown halftime deficit and win by a two field goal advantage.
The Packers never made it comfortable, but did enough to beat Miami. The game really came down to two quarterbacks in the second half. Aaron Rodgers, the old veteran, made plays and had no glaring errors. His offense moved the ball and scored points. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami’s young QB, seemed to wilt under the pressure as he threw interception after interception down the stretch.
The beginning of the game started well for Green Bay as Kingsley Enagbare had a great knock down of Tagovailoa’s first pass attempt. After that, the defense took some lumps giving up yards in chunks to Miami. They were finally able to slow the Dolphin offense down and made Miami face their first third down. Tagovailoa just missed on a long pass leading to 4th down and a 47-yard field goal. Miami took the 3-0 lead.
Green Bay’s Keisean Nixon then had the Packer kick return of the year as he cut through Miami’s kickoff team and was not stopped until he was knocking on the door of the goal line. The ninety-three yards seemed like it may be a game changer at the time, but Rodgers allowed himself to be sacked at the 20 yard line, killing an early opportunity to grab the lead.
Miami’s quick strike game then struck a thunder bolt through the Packers playoff hopes with a ten yard crossing pattern to Jaylen Waddle that turned into an 84 yard touchdown. That catch and dash exposed the mid levels and secondary of this Packer defense.
Linebackers and safeties not being in position to disrupt the mid-level crossing pattern, defensive backs taking poor angles to the receiver and All Pro Jaire Alexander whiffing on a tackle that allowed the touchdown.
The Packers and their fans were stunned. Could they come back from such a devastating punch in the gut? Boy, did they. It wasn’t easy, and at times it wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done. After the score, Miami gambled with a squib kick/ onside kick that Deguara knocked down and covered up at the Packer 46. The offense responded to the one play touchdown drive of Miami by going 54 yards in 10 plays, sealing the touchdown on 4th and 1 at the goal line on a run fake- toss to a wide open Marcedes Lewis. Christian Watson, Lazard and Aaron Jones all contributed on the drive, with Rodgers successfully scrambling on third down, moving the chains and keeping the drive alive.
The defense forced a punt but the Packers turned the ball over on downs, failing to convert in 4th and 1 at the Miami 37. The Dolphins then cut through the defense in three plays. A 24 yard pass, a 54 yard pass and a one-yard run made the score 17-10 Miami.
Green Bay then faced a 4th and 1 at their own 20 on their next possession and sent out the punt unit. The subsequent fake punt and run was stuffed, leading to a quick Miami field goal. This stand by the defense, leading to a field goal and a ten point lead, actually was a turning point for Green Bay. The Defense held the Miami lead to a reachable ten points and then, after Jarran Reed forced a fumble, gave the offense a quick field goal to make it a one score game. Halftime saw the Packers down a touchdown, 20-13, but they had the ball to start the second half and momentum.
The Packers tied the game in their first possession of the third quarter and the two biggest plays came from unexpected contributors. The first was a crossing pass to third string running back Patrick Taylor on 3rd and 9 for 17 yards. The next was a 31 yard sideline toss from Rodgers to the ageless Marcedes Lewis.
A.J. Dillon finished up with a devastating smash mouth run of six yards and then finished it with a dive to the goal line on the next snap. The score was tied 20-20 and the chants of Go Pack Go started to rise around the quieted Dolphin fans in the stadium. The next Miami possession ended in a missed 48-yard field goal, only increasing the volume of Packer chants.
Then the game’s stress level raised through the roof. Miami’s missed field goal was followed by a drive by the Packers into enemy territory. The drive was thwarted by an interception of a long ball into the end zone. The Miami defensive back clearly pushed Allen Lazard, but no flag ever came. That was followed by the Packer’s Jaire Alexander picking off Tagovailoa and returning it to the Miami 14.
The next six offensive plays included a penalty by Royce Newman, a penalty on 2nd and 15 against Miami for roughing Rodgers giving the Packers a first down at the Miami 7, then a fumble by A.J. Dillon that he recovered. Green Bay settled for a field goal and their first lead, 23-20 at the 11:45 mark for the 4th quarter. Miami then drove the ball 52 yards and were knocking on the door when Tagovailoa tossed his second pick, a beautiful grab by De’Vondre Campbell on the Packer 22. Aaron and Company then took 9 plays and 4 minutes off the play clock but could not put the game away with a touchdown.
The field goal left Miami two minutes, 75 yards and no time outs to score a potentially game winning touchdown. After two straight interceptions, Tua could not respond and ended the game throwing his third interception when Rasul Douglass stepped in front of his sideline pass to seal the victory. A great team win that keeps the Packers in the playoff hunt. There were key injuries to Nixon, Watson, Nijman and Dean Lowry, but that will be a question for next week.
Enjoy your Christmas gift today Packer fans, it was a great game to win on the road with the playoffs on the line.