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By: Evan "Tex" Western
Green Bay had to make some major changes to their playing time on Sunday, particularly in the defensive backfield.
The most important thing for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday was coming out of Miami with a 26-20 victory. However, the game came at some cost, with several key players leaving the game with injuries.
The tenacity and creativity that the Packers displayed in covering up for those injuries was a big factor in the win and may go overlooked, especially in the secondary. Injuries to Rudy Ford and Keisean Nixon brought on a handful of players who have barely played any defensive snaps in their NFL careers as the team tried to account for those absences.
Meanwhile, one of the team’s highest-drafted rookies set a career high in snaps, also due in part to injury, and looked like a solid, disruptive player when on the field. And of course, rookie phenom Christian Watson left the game with an injury once again after making a big impact in the first half.
Hopefully the Packers will be able to provide some injury updates on Monday and that those updates will be encouraging for the injured players’ chances of playing against the Minnesota Vikings in week 17. For now, here’s a look at the team’s overall snap breakdowns.
OFFENSE (66 total snaps)
Aaron Rodgers 66
Sunday’s game was not a particularly efficient day for Rodgers, who is still looking for his first 300-yard game of the season. His final numbers go down with 24 completions on 38 attempts for 238 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Rodgers had some frustrating misses in this game — perhaps none more inexplicable than his awful overthrow of Christian Watson on a go route on 4th-and-2 — but then he brought out vintage Rodgers throws up the left sideline to Allen Lazard and Marcedes Lewis for the biggest plays of the day. That’s just what Rodgers is now: capable of the classic Rodgers throws, but showing maddening inconsistency at other times.
AJ Dillon 38, Aaron Jones 25, Patrick Taylor 5
The Packers once again worked Jones into the game plan sparingly, as he still appears to be dealing with some nagging injuries. He was responsible for the longest run of the day, an 18-yard gain on a 1st-and-20 following a holding penalty, but finished with just 8 touches — 6 carries for 25 yards and two receptions for nine yards.
Dillon was the bell cow, such as there was one on Sunday. He carried the ball 11 times for 36 yards and a touchdown, adding two receptions for 12 yards. Meanwhile, Taylor got in the game a bit late and made one great play, a catch-and-run of 17 yards on a checkdown from Rodgers.
Allen Lazard 59, Romeo Doubs 40, Randall Cobb 32, Christian Watson 25, Samori Toure 6
The Packers got some big early production from Watson, as he was targeted a whopping 8 times on his 25 snaps. Watson caught six of those passes for 49 yards, including his final play — a 4th-and-1 conversion for 10 yards that saw him take a big hit. That knocked him out of the game with a hip issue, and the Packers surely hope that it will not be a major problem that will keep him out for next week’s game against the Vikings.
Lazard saw the bulk of the targets with Watson out, getting 11 passes thrown his way. He caught just five of them, however, picking up 61 total yards, but one of those went for a gain of 42 meaning that he averaged just five yards on his other four completions. Doubs was the only other player on the team to catch more than two passes, hauling in three of six targets for 36 yards.
Robert Tonyan 38, Marcedes Lewis 29, Josiah Deguara 19, Tyler Davis 14
The Packers did get the tight ends worked in a bit more in this game, with the Big Dog getting into the act. He caught a one-yard score from Rodgers on a 4th-and-goal opportunity, a play that saw the Packers put all four tight ends on the field to indicate that a run was coming. Lewis then hauled in a 31-yard reception on a wheel route on the first drive of the second half, a catch that may or may not have held up had the Dolphins challenged it. That catch helped set up the Packers’ tying touchdown.
Tonyan had one catch, a nice gain of 13 yards as the Packers were looking to expand their lead from three points.
Zach Tom 66, Elgton Jenkins 66, Josh Myers 66, Jon Runyan, Jr. 66, Royce Newman 48, Yosh Nijman 18
The first challenge that the Packers have had to their starting lineup in weeks came early in this game when Nijman was ruled out with a shoulder injury. That brought on Newman as his replacement, and he went the rest of the way at right tackle. The group helped keep Rodgers largely clean, however, allowing just two sacks (one of which was Rodgers’ fault) and just a third QB hit.
DEFENSE (50 total snaps)
Kenny Clark 40, Jarran Reed 34, Devonte Wyatt 24, T.J. Slaton 20, Dean Lowry 7
Wyatt set a new personal best in snaps on Sunday with 24, filling in significantly for Lowry after he was injured early on in the game. Although Wyatt’s stat line does not look too impressive (one assisted tackle), he also had a hit on quarterback Tua Tagavailoa and was visibly disruptive at multiple points throughout the game.
Meanwhile, Reed had perhaps his biggest day as a Packer. He finished second on the team with six tackles, he recorded a sack and a second QB hit, and he delivered a turnover late in the first half with a forced and recovered fumble on running back Raheem Mostert. That takeaway was a massive momentum shift just after the two-minute warning, helping ensure that the Dolphins could not take a three-possession lead and delivering the offense a chance to pull back within one score — which they did with a field goal.
Clark had just one assisted tackle in the game, eating up blockers for much of the contest. Instead, Slaton finished with three tackles as well, including one for a loss.
Preston Smith 38, J.J. Enagabare 36, Justin Hollins 24
The Packers elected to go with a pure three-man rotation in this game on the edge, as Jonathan Garvin was a healthy scratch. Smith continues to play great over the Packers’ last few games, recording a sack-fumble on Tagavailoa. He now has five sacks in his last five games after just 3.5 in the first ten contests this season.
Enagbare had a few nice plays, landing a hit on the QB and breaking up a pass on the first play of the game. Hollins was in on three tackles as well and was visible around the football for much of the game.
De’Vondre Campbell 50, Quay Walker 48, Krys Barnes 5
It was a bounce-back game for Campbell, who recorded his second interception of the season on Sunday. He only accounted for three tackles in total, tying his lowest number of the season, but he was in on the play when Reed forced the fumble and seemingly played one of his better games overall this season. Walker was oddly quiet on the stat sheet as well, making just one assisted tackle and picking up a pass breakup.
Adrian Amos 50, Darnell Savage 32, Rudy Ford 19, Innis Gaines 13, Tariq Carpenter 3
The biggest area where the Packers had to shuffle due to injury on Sunday was in the secondary, with Ford having to leave the game in the first half along with slot cornerback Keisean Nixon. That forced the Packers to use a group of players at safety and in the slot, with Savage, Gaines, and Carpenter all putting in some work.
Amos ended up leading the team in total tackles with 11, having to track down some receivers deep as well as stepping up against the run. None of the other safeties made more than one individual tackle on defense, but the skeleton crew was able to do just enough in coverage to help the rest of the defense deliver three critical fourth-quarter interceptions.
Jaire Alexander 50, Rasul Douglas 50, Keisean Nixon 7
Of those three picks, Campbell had one and each of the starting boundary cornerbacks had another. Alexander’s started off the spree, as he hauled in a throw that sailed over Tyreek Hill’s head and right into his arms. That set up the Packers-go-ahead field goal and went down in the stat sheet next to his four solo tackles.
Douglas then got the third of the three picks, dropping back from his short zone to drift underneath a throw from Tagavailoa to Mike Gesicki up the sideline. It was an impressive display of alert play from Douglas, who used his awareness of the game situation and the fact that the Dolphins had no timeouts to gamble on them looking to go to the sideline rather than take the slant on the inside to Hill. His pick sealed the win and was one of two pass breakups on the day.
Nixon’s loss to a groin injury was a tough one to take, however, especially after the instant impact he provided on special teams. He returned the first kickoff of the game 93 yards, finally being tracked down at the 9-yard line. If he had scored, that would have been just the fourth kickoff return touchdown in the NFL all season and the Packers’ first since Randall Cobb’s touchdown as a rookie in the 2011 season opener. He did get one other return in before he had to leave the game, picking up 20 yards and extending his streak of 100-yard return games to six straight.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Tyler Davis 21, Dallin Leavitt 20, Innis Gaines 15, Isaiah McDuffie 15, Eric Wilson 15, Corey Ballentine 13, Mason Crosby 13, Rasul Douglas 12, T.J. Slaton 11, Tariq Carpenter 10, J.J. Enagbare 10
The Packers had a big day of work on special teams, including kicking four field goals. Perhaps the biggest play to dissect was the decision to run a fake punt on 4th-and-2 from their own 20-yard line, a play that saw Leavitt stuffed up the middle trying to run into a heavy Dolphins front. That and Nixon’s return were the notable plays, though it was also notable that Cobb took over for Nixon on punt returns and Romeo Doubs was deep on kickoffs after the injury.
Originally posted on ACME Packing Company