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By: Evan "Tex" Western
Green Bay’s playoff hopes are still very much alive now, with some help from around the league on Saturday and a surprising win in South Florida on Sunday.
The Green Bay Packers’ playoff hopes are still alive. One day after getting a series of Christmas presents in the other games across the NFL, the Packers took care of their own business on Christmas Day in South Florida.
Like last season’s Christmas Day game, when the Packers got four interceptions against Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns, the defense forced another four takeaways against the Miami Dolphins, intercepting Tua Tagavailoa three times. Green Bay’s offense struggled in the red zone and on key situations — the Packers were just 2-for-14 on third downs — but the timely takeaways in the second half gave the offense good enough field position for points and erased scoring opportunities for the Dolphins’ offense.
The Packers managed a win with only modest rushing production overall. The team got just 79 yards on the ground and 301 yards overall. Miami outgained Green Bay 376-301 even though the Packers had 65 plays to the Dolphins’ 45. That 8.4 yards per play for Miami was substantially more than the Packers’ 4.6, as both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle delivered big plays in the first half.
It was the Packers’ defense that delivered the key blows in the second half, however. Picks from Jaire Alexander, De’Vondre Campbell, and Rasul Douglas all came in the fourth quarter, and Campbell forced a fumble late in the first half to help the Packers put up an important late-first half field goal.
The Packers now sit at 7-8 and need just one result beyond winning their own final two games to get into the postseason: a loss by the Washington Commanders in either of the last two weeks.
The Packers’ defense did much of what was expected of it on the opening drive of the game. Raheem Mostert carried the football three times for 33 yards and Tua Tagavailoa completed one pass to Tyreek Hill for 14 yards, driving into field goal range. Rasul Douglas’ coverage on third down forced a field goal, however, allowing just a 3-0 lead after the first drive.
After the Dolphins’ first score, Keisean Nixon delivered another lightning bolt on his first kickoff return. Nixon took the football out from just inside the end zone and found a crease, bursting up the left sideline. The Dolphins finally tracked Nixon down at the 9-yard line, but his 94-yard return set up the Packers in magnificent position to take an early lead. However, after a short run by Aaron Jones down to the 5, Aaron Rodgers took an awful sack back at the 20-yard line, holding the football after a long-developing play and failing to throw it away when no receivers were open. That led to a drop by Romeo Doubs on a short route on 3rd and goal, bringing Mason Crosby on to tie the game at 3.
After a short kickoff return by Mostert, the Dolphins struck with a huge touchdown. On the first play of their next drive, Tagavailoa hit Jaylen Waddle on a crossing route and he turned on the jets, avoiding a tackle attempt from Jaire Alexander and outrunning Adrian Amos to the end zone for an 84-yard touchdown.
Miami refused to give Nixon another chance for a big return, squibbing the next kickoff short. Josiah Deguara fell on it at the 40-yard line, giving Green Bay good field position again. After a quick slant to Allen Lazard for 11 yards, Rodgers hit Watson on a crosser for 20 to get into the red zone. Rodgers scrambled for a gain of ten yards on 3rd-and-8 to move the chains and set up a goal-to-go situation, but a few mistakes set up 4th down from the two-yard line. Finally, the Packers found the end zone, bringing all four of their tight ends onto the field. Rodgers rolled out and found a wide-open Marcedes Lewis, tying the game at 10 with the score.
The first defensive stop of the game came for the Packers around midfield. A holding call on the Dolphins and a bad snap to Tagavailoa yielded a Miami punt, which Randall Cobb fielded around the 10-yard line. Rodgers hit Lazard with a rainbow over his shoulder on the first play of the drive, gaining 42 yards on the last play of the first quarter. The Packers would fail on a 4th down a few plays later, however, with Rodgers overshooting an open Christian Watson on a deep ball.
After Waddle’s big play in the first quarter, Hill delivered one in the second. Hill split the Packers’ safeties for a 52-yard catch down near the goal line and Jeff Wilson plunged into the end zone one play later to put Miami back up on top by a touchdown. The Packers would set up the Dolphins for another score almost immediately, going three-and-out and then failing on a fake punt by Dallin Leavitt on 4th-and-2. That turned the ball over to Miami at the Packers’ 20, and the Dolphins kicked a field goal to go up 20-10.
Romeo Doubs was back to take the ensuing kickoff, as Nixon aggravated a groin injury on the prior series and was unavailable. He took the ball out of the end zone, but with much less success than Nixon as the Packers started at their own 15. Another three-and-out set up Miami with a chance to score once again before halftime, taking over with about two minutes left. Instead, De’Vondre Campbell forced a fumble on Mostert on the first play after the two-minute warning and Jarran Reed recovered the ball at midfield, giving the Packers another chance to pull back within a score before the half.
After Christian Watson picked up 9 yards on second down, AJ Dillon got stuffed on 3rd and inches, but Rodgers found Watson again to convert for a ten-yard gain on 4th down. That at least got the Packers into field goal range, as the offense sputtered again and brought Crosby back out for a 46-yard attempt. He snuck it through, pulling Green Bay back to within seven before receiving the opening kickoff of the second half.
The Packers tied the game on that opening series of the third quarter, as AJ Dillon punched in the football for a touchdown. That score capped off an 11-play, 78-yard drive, punctuated with a 31-yard catch by Marcedes Lewis up the left sideline.
With a chance to take the lead back, Miami was denied after driving into Packers territory. Jason Sanders pushed his 48-yard field goal wide right, giving Green Bay back the football in decent field position. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception on the ensuing series, lofting a deep ball into the end zone for Lazard that was picked off by Kader Kohou. One play later, however, Jaire Alexander took the ball back, giving the Packers great field position with the fifth interception of his season.
Green Bay could not find the end zone once again, making them just 2-for-4 in the red zone. However, Crosby did give the Packers their first lead of the game at 23-20, hitting from 29 yards out.
The defense then delivered yet another turnover, with Campbell picking up his second of the day. After the Dolphins drove down past midfield, Campbell stepped in front of Tagavailoa’s throw to Mostert and picked it off. A 22-yard pass to Romeo Doubs helped set up the Packers for yet another field goal, extending Green Bay’s lead to 26-20.
The knockout blow came from Rasul Douglas just two plays later. With the Dolphins out of timeouts and the clock inside the two-minute warning, Douglas dropped into a deep zone and intercepted Tagavailoa once again as he tried to hit tight end Mike Gesicki in the hole in the zone up the right sideline. Douglas smartly took a knee, letting Rodgers do so three times to kill the rest of the clock and send the Packers home as victors.
We at Acme Packing Company wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. Join us back here throughout the coming week as we look ahead to the Packers’ next game, at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
Originally posted on ACME Packing Company